Contamination of the land and water by neonicotinoid insecticide residues is currently a severe environmental problem. However, the traditional methods for pesticide residue analysis are time consuming and laborious. To tackle this problem, here we describe a novel quenchbody (Q-body) immunoassay reagent that allows the rapid and sensitive detection of imidacloprid, one of the most frequently used neonicotinoid pesticides, in aqueous solution. A Q-body comprises an antibody Fab fragment that is site-specifically labeled with a fluorescent dye. The Fab fragment quenches the dye with its internal tryptophan residues via photoinduced electron transfer. The subsequent addition of imidacloprid stabilizes the antibody structure and displaces the quenched dye to the outside of the protein, resulting in increased fluorescence. The constructed Q-body assay exhibited a high dynamic range and a low limit of detection (10 ng mL−1), and the entire assay procedure could be completed in a few minutes. The assay showed a low cross-reactivity with possible interfering analogous compounds, indicating that it has a good selectivity. Hence, the developed Q-body assay has excellent potential as a universal technology for monitoring neonicotinoid residues in environmental and food samples. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].
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