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Nano Lett. 2009 Sep;9(9):3258-61. doi: 10.1021/nl901517b.

Aptamer nano-flares for molecular detection in living cells.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and International Institute for Nanotechnology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208-3113, USA.


We demonstrate a composite nanomaterial, termed an aptamer nano-flare, that can directly quantify an intracellular analyte in a living cell. Aptamer nano-flares consist of a gold nanoparticle core functionalized with a dense monolayer of nucleic acid aptamers with a high affinity for adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The probes bind selectively to target molecules and release fluorescent reporters which indicate the presence of the analyte. Additionally, these nanoconjugates are readily taken up by cells where their signal intensity can be used to quantify intracellular analyte concentration. These nanoconjugates are a promising approach for the intracellular quantification of other small molecules or proteins, or as agents that use aptamer binding to elicit a biological response in living systems.

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