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Anal Chem. 2008 Feb 1;80(3):567-72. doi: 10.1021/ac702322j. Epub 2008 Jan 1.

Cancer cell targeting using multiple aptamers conjugated on nanorods.

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  • 1Center for Research at Bio/nano Interface, Department of Chemistry and Shands Cancer Center, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA.


Molecular recognition toward specific cells is a key issue for effective disease, such as cancer, diagnosis and therapy. Although many molecular probes such as aptamers and antibodies can recognize the unique molecular signatures of cancer cells, some of these probes only have relatively weak binding affinities. This results in poor signaling and hinders cell targeting. Here, we use Au-Ag nanorods (NRs) as a nanoplatform for multivalent binding by multiple aptamers on the rod to increase both the signal and binding strengths of these aptamers in cancer cell recognition. Up to 80 fluorophore-labeled aptamers can be attached on a 12 nm x 56 nm NR, resulting in a much stronger fluorescence signal than that of an individual dye-labeled aptamer probe. The molecular assembly of aptamers on the NR surfaces also significantly improves the binding affinity with cancer cells through simultaneous multivalent interactions with the cell membrane receptors. This leads to an affinity at least 26-fold higher than the intrinsic affinity of the original aptamer probes. As determined by flow cytometric measurements, an enhancement in fluorescence signal in excess of 300-fold is obtained for the NR-aptamer-labeled cells compared with those labeled by individual aptamer probes. Therefore, the molecular assembly of aptamers clearly shows potential applications for the elucidation of cells with low density of binding sites, or with relatively weak binding probes, and can thus greatly improve our ability to perform cellular imaging and targeting. This is an excellent example of using nanomaterials to develop advanced molecular binders with greatly improved properties for cellular studies.

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