A Ligand System for the Flexible Functionalization of Quantum Dots via Click Chemistry

Yue Chen, Jose M. Cordero, Hua Wang, Daniel Franke, Odin B. Achorn, Francesca S. Freyria, Igor Coropceanu, He Wei, Ou Chen, David J. Mooney, Moungi G. Bawendi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a novel ligand, 5-norbornene-2-nonanoic acid, which can be directly added during established quantum dot (QD) syntheses in organic solvents to generate “clickable” QDs at a few hundred nmol scale. This ligand has a carboxyl group at one terminus to bind to the surface of QDs and a norbornene group at the opposite end that enables straightforward phase transfer of QDs into aqueous solutions via efficient norbornene/tetrazine click chemistry. Our ligand system removes the traditional ligand-exchange step and can produce water-soluble QDs with a high quantum yield and a small hydrodynamic diameter of approximately 12 nm at an order of magnitude higher scale than previous methods. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach by incubating azido-functionalized CdSe/CdS QDs with 4T1 cancer cells that are metabolically labeled with a dibenzocyclooctyne-bearing unnatural sugar. The QDs exhibit high targeting efficiency and minimal nonspecific binding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4652-4656
Number of pages5
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 16 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • capping ligand
  • cell labeling
  • click chemistry
  • quantum dots
  • surface modification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)


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