Fluorescent aptamer sensors have shown enormous potential for intracellular imaging of small molecule metabolites. Since metabolites distribute differently at different subcellular locations and their concentrations and locations fluctuate with time, methods are needed for spatiotemporally controlled monitoring of these metabolites. Built upon previous success in temporal control of aptamer-based sensors, we herein report an aptamer sensor containing a photocleavable linker and using DQAsomes to target mitochondria for spatiotemporally controlled monitoring of ATP in the mitochondria of living cells. The photocleavable modification on the DNA ATP aptamer sensor can prevent sensor activation before reaching mitochondria and the sensor can then be activated upon light irradiation. The sensor has a detection limit of 3.7 μM and high selectivity against other nucleotides, allowing detection of ATP concentration fluctuations in mitochondria induced by Ca2+ or oligomycin. This work represents the first successful delivery of a DNA aptamer sensor to mitochondria, providing a new platform for targeted delivery to subcellular organelles for monitoring energy producing processes, as well as mitochondrial dysfunction-related diseases in different cells.
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