A pH-activatable fluorescent aptamer probe for imaging of target cancer cells


Early cancer diagnosis in molecular level shows great promise in relevant prevention and clinical treatment. Herein, we developed a novel method to detect and evaluate biomarkers on cancer cell surface. Based on the excellent selectivity of AS1411 aptamer to targeted nucleolin-overexpressed cells, we used a fluorescent probe with a pH-sensitive function to label the AS1411 aptamer modified with azide by click-reaction. The spectral characteristics of fluorophore naphthalimide has a good pH dependence. By this way, nucleolin-overexpressed cell could be discriminated from normal cell. Further, this strategy could also discriminate the breast cancer tissue from the adjacent benign tissue in formalin-fixed and parrffin- embedded (FFPE) tissue specimens. It is considered that our method has the potential to be applied in medical detection.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Heng Xiao.

Additional information

Foundation item: Supported by the National Program on Key Basic Research Project (973 Program) (2012CB720600, 2012CB720603, 2012CB720605), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21432008, 91413109, 81373256, 91213302)

Biography: ZHOU Yan, female, Associate chief technician, research direction: tumor detection.

These authors contribute equally to this work

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Zhou, Y., Fu, B. & Xiao, H. A pH-activatable fluorescent aptamer probe for imaging of target cancer cells. Wuhan Univ. J. Nat. Sci. 22, 247–251 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11859-017-1242-5

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Key words

  • aptamer
  • fluorescence
  • pH-activatable probe
  • cancer cell imaging

CLC number

  • TP 212