A quantum dot–MUC1 aptamer conjugate for targeted delivery of protoporphyrin IX and specific photokilling of cancer cells through ROS generation†
Non-targeted photosensitizers lack selectivity that undermines the potential use of photodynamic therapy (PDT). Herein, we report the DNA mediated assembly of a ZnSe/ZnS quantum dot (QD)–photosensitizer (PS)–Mucin 1(MUC1) aptamer conjugate for targeting the MUC1 cancer biomarker and simultaneous generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). A photosensitizer, protoporphyrin IX (PpIX), was conjugated to a single stranded DNA and self-assembled to a complementary strand that was conjugated to a QD and harboring a MUC1 aptamer sequence. A multistep fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) is shown that involves the QD, PpIX and covalently linked CF™ 633 amine dye (CF dye) to the MUC1 peptide that tracks the potency of the aptamer to attach itself with the MUC1 peptide. Since the absorption spectra of the CF dye overlap with the emission spectra of PpIX, the former acts as an acceptor to PpIX forming a second FRET pair when the dye labeled MUC1 binds to the aptamer. The binding of the QD–PpIX nanoassemblies with MUC1 through the aptamer was further confirmed by gel electrophoresis and circular dichroism studies. The selective photodamage of MUC1 expressing HeLa cervical cancer cells through ROS generation in the presence of the QD–PpIX FRET probe upon irradiation is successfully demonstrated.