Pearson's principle-inspired hollow metal sulfide for amplified photoelectrochemical immunoassay for disease-related protein

Biosens Bioelectron. 2023 Feb 1:221:114210. doi: 10.1016/j.bios.2022.114210. Epub 2022 Mar 21.


Designing a universal route for rational synthesis of a family of hollow multinary chalcogenide semiconductors for photoelectrochemical biosensors is still facing to the enormous challenges ahead. Herein a template-assisted Cu2O surface vulcanization and etching through a Pearson's hard and soft acid-base (HSAB) principle was utilized to synthesize hollow Cu2-xS photoactive materials for photocurrent detection of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). We initially synthesized cubic Cu2O and further surface sulfidation and HCl etching to obtain cubic Cu2-xS. Inspiringly, stirring of CuS, phosphine (TBP: tributylphosphine) and other metal salts could replace Cu+ ions to obtain new metal sulfides without changing the framework, size and thickness of the original material. This interesting phenomenon could be explained by HSAB theory, which soft base was favorable for combining soft acid (Cu+) to drive Cu+ out of the framework. Based on the results, HSAB-based reaction system was applied to develop novel photoelectrochemical PSA immunoassay. Polymetallic-doped sulfides (ZnxCd1-xS) had better photocurrent response than pure binary sulfides. A copper oxide (CuO)-labeled detection antibody is captured in a microplate along with a sandwich immunoassay in the presence of target PSA. Subsequently, the CuO nanoparticles were dissociated by hydrochloric acid, releasing a large amount of copper ions to participate in the cation exchange reaction with ZnxCd1-xS. Such excellent photoelectric conversion materials could sensitively detect target PSA with a wide linear range from 1.0 pg/mL to 10 ng/mL at a limit of detection down to 0.32 pg/mL. Additionally, favorable stability, great anti-interference ability, easy-fabrication, low-cost, and satisfactory accuracy for the analysis of actual samples were acquired. Importantly, the concept of cation exchange reaction can be widely used to synthesize advanced nanomaterials for fabrication of high-efficiency biosensing systems.

Keywords: Hard and soft acid-base principle; Pearson's principle; Photoelectrochemical immunoassay; Prostate-specific antigen.

MeSH terms

  • Biosensing Techniques* / methods
  • Cadmium
  • Copper
  • Electrochemical Techniques / methods
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Limit of Detection
  • Male
  • Metal Nanoparticles*
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / analysis
  • Sulfides


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen
  • hydroxysuccinimidyl-4-azidobenzoate
  • Cadmium
  • Copper
  • Sulfides