Functionalized magnetite nanoparticles (FMNPs) and functionalized mesoporous silica nanoparticles (FMSNs) were synthesized by the conjugation of magnetite and mesoporous silica with the small and fluorogenic benzothiazole ligand, that is, 2(2-hydroxyphenyl)benzothiazole (hpbtz). The synthesized fluorescent nanoparticles were characterized by FTIR, XRD, XRF, 13C CP MAS NMR, BET, and TEM. The photophysical behavior of FMNPs and FMSNs in ethanol was studied using fluorescence spectroscopy. The modification of magnetite and silica scaffolds with the highly fluorescent benzothiazole ligand enabled the nanoparticles to be used as selective and sensitive optical probes for zinc ion detection. Moreover, the presence of hpbtz in FMNPs and FMSNs induced efficient cell viability and zinc ion uptake, with desirable signaling in the normal human kidney epithelial (Hek293) cell line. The significant viability of FMNPs and FMSNs (80% and 92%, respectively) indicates a potential applicability of these nanoparticles as in vitro imaging agents. The calculated limit of detections (LODs) were found to be 2.53 × 10−6 and 2.55 × 10−6 M for Fe₃O₄-H@hpbtz and MSN-Et₃N-IPTMS-hpbtz-f1, respectively. FMSNs showed more pronounced zinc signaling relative to FMNPs, as a result of the more efficient penetration into the cells.
Keywords: Zn2+ detection; Zn2+ sensors; live cell imaging; magnetite; mesoporous silica; nanomaterials.