Pattern-based detection of anion pollutants in water with DNA polyfluorophores†
Many existing irrigation, industrial and chemical storage sites are currently introducing hazardous anions into groundwater, making the monitoring of such sites a high priority. Detecting and quantifying anions in water samples typically requires complex instrumentation, adding cost and delaying analysis. Here we address these challenges by development of an optical molecular method to detect and discriminate a broad range of anionic contaminants with DNA-based fluorescent sensors. A library of 1296 tetrameric-length oligodeoxyfluorosides (ODFs) composed of metal ligand and fluorescence modulating monomers was constructed with a DNA synthesizer on PEG-polystyrene microbeads. These oligomers on beads were incubated with YIII or ZnII ions to provide affinity and responsiveness to anions. Seventeen anions were screened with the library under an epifluorescence microscope, ultimately yielding eight chemosensors that could discriminate 250 μM solutions of all 17 anions in buffered water using their patterns of response. This sensor set was able to identify two unknown anion samples from ten closely-responding anions and could also function quantitatively, determining unknown concentrations of anions such as cyanide (as low as 1 mM) and selenate (as low as 50 μM). Further studies with calibration curves established detection limits of selected anions including thiocyanate (detection limit ∼300 μM) and arsenate (∼800 μM). The results demonstrate DNA-like fluorescent chemosensors as versatile tools for optically analyzing environmentally hazardous anions in aqueous environments.