Selective lighting up of epiberberine alkaloid fluorescence by fluorophore-switching aptamer and stoichiometric targeting of human telomeric DNA G-quadruplex multimer

Lihua Zhang, Hua Liu, Yong Shao, Clement Lin, Huan Jia, Gang Chen, Danzhou Yang, Ying Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Scopus citations


Aptamers, that exist naturally in living cells as functional elements and can switch nonfluorescent natural targets to fluorophores, are very useful in developing highly sensitive and selective biosensors and screening functional agents. This work demonstrates that human telomeric G-quadruplex (HTG) can serve as a potential fluorophore-switching aptamer (FSA) to target a natural isoquinoline alkaloid. We found that, among the G-quadruplexes studied here and the various structurally similar alkaloids including epiberberine (EPI), berberine (BER), palmatine (PAL), jatrorrhizine (JAT), coptisine (COP), worenine (WOR), sanguinarine (SAN), chelerythrine (CHE), and nitidine (NIT), only the HTG DNA, especially with a 5′-TA-3′ residue at the 5′ end of the G-quadruplex tetrad (5′-TAG3(TTAG3)3-3′, TA[Q]) as the minimal sequence, is the most efficient FSA to selectively light up the EPI fluorescence. Compared to the 5′ end flanking sequences, the 3′ end flanking sequences of the tetrad contribute significantly less to the recognition of EPI. The binding affinity of EPI to TA[Q] (Kd = 37 nM) is at least 20 times tighter than those of the other alkaloids. The steady-state absorption, steady-state/time-resolved fluorescence, and NMR studies demonstrate that EPI most likely interact with the 5′ end flanking sequence substructure beyond the core [Q] and the G-quadruplex tetrad in a much more specific manner than the other alkaloids. The highly selective and tight binding of EPI with the FSA and significantly enhanced fluorescence suggest the potential development of a selective EPI sensor (detection limit of 10 nM). More importantly, EPI, as the brightest FSA emitter among the alkaloids, can also serve as an efficient conformation probe for HTG DNA and discriminate the DNA G-quadruplex from the RNA counterpart. Furthermore, EPI can bind stoichiometrically to each G-quadruplex unit of long HTG DNA multimer with the most significant fluorescence enhancement, which has not been achieved by the previously reported probes. Our work suggests the potential use of EPI as a bioimaging probe and a therapeutic DNA binder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)730-737
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 6 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry

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