Optical Control of Metal Ion Probes in Cells and Zebrafish Using Highly Selective DNAzymes Conjugated to Upconversion Nanoparticles

Zhenglin Yang, Kang Yong Loh, Yueh Te Chu, Ruopei Feng, Nitya Sai Reddy Satyavolu, Mengyi Xiong, Stephanie M. Nakamata Huynh, Kevin Hwang, Lele Li, Hang Xing, Xiaobing Zhang, Yann R. Chemla, Martin Gruebele, Yi Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatial and temporal distributions of metal ions in vitro and in vivo are crucial in our understanding of the roles of metal ions in biological systems, and yet there is a very limited number of methods to probe metal ions with high space and time resolution, especially in vivo. To overcome this limitation, we report a Zn 2+ -specific near-infrared (NIR) DNAzyme nanoprobe for real-time metal ion tracking with spatiotemporal control in early embryos and larvae of zebrafish. By conjugating photocaged DNAzymes onto lanthanide-doped upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs), we have achieved upconversion of a deep tissue penetrating NIR 980 nm light into 365 nm emission. The UV photon then efficiently photodecages a substrate strand containing a nitrobenzyl group at the 2′-OH of adenosine ribonucleotide, allowing enzymatic cleavage by a complementary DNA strand containing a Zn 2+ -selective DNAzyme. The product containing a visible FAM fluorophore that is initially quenched by BHQ1 and Dabcyl quenchers is released after cleavage, resulting in higher fluorescent signals. The DNAzyme-UCNP probe enables Zn 2+ sensing by exciting in the NIR biological imaging window in both living cells and zebrafish embryos and detecting in the visible region. In this study, we introduce a platform that can be used to understand the Zn 2+ distribution with spatiotemporal control, thereby giving insights into the dynamical Zn 2+ ion distribution in intracellular and in vivo models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17656-17665
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 19 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry

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