Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Christopher C. Landry

Second Advisor

Christopher S. Francklyn


The need for a direct visual response system for the detection of organophosphorus compounds stems from the continued threat and use of these toxic agents in military and terrorist conflicts. The development of an enzyme-inhibitor triggered release system allows for direct visual detection with high specificity. Mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs) have physical features that make them attractive as scaffolds for the construction of these systems, such as pore diameters (20-500 Á) that can be synthetically controlled, large surface areas (300-1500 m2g-1), large pore volumes, chemical inertness, stability at elevated temperatures, and surfaces that can be easily functionalized. In our studies, the dye Congo Red was loaded into the pores of MSNs, which were then capped by tethering an enzyme (organophosphorus hydrolase (OPH) or acetylcholinesterase (AChE)) to the external surfaces of MSNs through a competitive inhibitor (diethyl 4-aminobenzyl phosphonate (DEABP) or tacrine, respectively). OPH has been extensively studied for its ability to hydrolyze a wide range of organophosphorus compounds, rendering them non-toxic. AChE has been commonly used for organophosphate detection resulting from its sensitivity to phosphorylation. Upon addition of organophosphorus compounds to suspensions of the modified MSNs, the enzymes detached from the MSN surface, releasing the dye and providing a visual confirmation of organophosphate presence. Enzyme kinetics were studied using 31P NMR or UV-Visible spectroscopy; Congo Red release was also monitored by UV-Visible spectroscopy. The system was sensitive and specific for organophosphorus compounds both in phosphate-buffered saline and in human serum. The rate of dye release directly correlated with the rate of organophosphorus conversion for OPH and the rate of phosphorylation for AChE.



Number of Pages

176 p.

Included in

Chemistry Commons