Imaging Endogenous Metal Ions in Living Cells Using a DNAzyme–Catalytic Hairpin Assembly Probe

Zhenkun Wu, Huanhuan Fan, Nitya Sai Reddy Satyavolu, Wen Jing Wang, Ryan Lake, Jian Hui Jiang, Yi Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


DNAzymes are a promising platform for metal ion detection, and a few DNAzyme-based sensors have been reported to detect metal ions inside cells. However, these methods required an influx of metal ions to increase their concentrations for detection. To address this major issue, the design of a catalytic hairpin assembly (CHA) reaction to amplify the signal from photocaged Na+-specific DNAzyme to detect endogenous Na+ inside cells is reported. Upon light activation and in the presence of Na+, the NaA43 DNAzyme cleaves its substrate strand and releases a product strand, which becomes an initiator that trigger the subsequent CHA amplification reaction. This strategy allows detection of endogenous Na+ inside cells, which has been demonstrated by both fluorescent imaging of individual cells and flow cytometry of the whole cell population. This method can be generally applied to detect other endogenous metal ions and thus contribute to deeper understanding of the role of metal ions in biological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8721-8725
Number of pages5
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number30
StatePublished - Jul 17 2017


  • DNAzymes
  • biosensors
  • nucleic acid amplification
  • photoactivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry


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