Molecularly imprinted polymers as synthetic receptors for the QCM-D-based detection of L-nicotine in diluted saliva and urine samples

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2013 Aug;405(20):6479-87. doi: 10.1007/s00216-013-7080-1. Epub 2013 Jun 11.


Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are synthetic receptors that are able to specifically bind their target molecules in complex samples, making them a versatile tool in biosensor technology. The combination of MIPs as a recognition element with quartz crystal microbalances (QCM-D with dissipation monitoring) gives a straightforward and sensitive device, which can simultaneously measure frequency and dissipation changes. In this work, bulk-polymerized L-nicotine MIPs were used to test the feasibility of L-nicotine detection in saliva and urine samples. First, L-nicotine-spiked saliva and urine were measured after dilution in demineralized water and 0.1× phosphate-buffered saline solution for proof-of-concept purposes. L-nicotine could indeed be detected specifically in the biologically relevant micromolar concentration range. After successfully testing on spiked samples, saliva was analyzed, which was collected during chewing of either nicotine tablets with different concentrations or of smokeless tobacco. The MIPs in combination with QCM-D were able to distinguish clearly between these samples: This proves the functioning of the concept with saliva, which mediates the oral uptake of nicotine as an alternative to the consumption of cigarettes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Imprinting / methods*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Nicotine / chemistry*
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Urine / chemistry*


  • Nicotine