Carbon nanodots (C-Dots) have attracted growing interest in recent years due to their low cost, ready scalability, excellent chemical stability, biocompatibility, colloidal stability, and resilience of photoluminescence. They have been employed as novel, ideal fluorescent probes for bio-imaging and smart sensing. In addition, taking advantage of their low-cytotoxicity, C-Dots have potential applications in biochemical and cell biological fields. Herein, we present the first assay with aptamer-functionalized C-Dots as a sensory platform for protein detection. The presence of thrombin can induce the aptamer-modified fluorescent C-Dots to form a sandwich structure with aptamer-functionalized silica nanoparticles through specific protein/aptamer interaction. The assay shows high specificity toward thrombin. A detection limit of 1 nM is obtained, which is significantly improved as compared to that of many previously reported fluorescence-based thrombin detection assays. Using other modified aptamers and antibodies instead of thrombin binding aptamers, this strategy may offer a suitable approach for detection of other proteins in biological, pharmaceutical and nano-mechanical applications.
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