Specific and sensitive identification of special G-quadruplex structures is an important issue and attracts increasing interest. In this paper, a novel, signal-amplified strategy is proposed for the specific detection of G-quadruplexes, which is very different from those currently-dominating methods based on single-molecular fluorescent probes. In this strategy, a ‘special designed’ cyanine dye loses the ability of self-assembly in solution but still keeps its assembly potential. When the G-quadruplex with a specific structure is present, the assembly potential of the dye is reactivated so that it can assemble to J-aggregates. Other DNA motifs without this specific structure cannot activate its assembly potential no matter if they are double-stranded or quadruplex DNA. Since the assembly is quite specific to structure, the induced procedure of the aggregates provides high specificity for this strategy. In addition, the attached aggregates exponentially amplify the signal due to the signal stacking of those monomers within the aggregates, which then significantly enhances the sensitivity of this strategy. As a result, this strategy exhibits a highly specific and sensitive detection ability for specific G-quadruplex structures both between quadruplexes and non-quadruplexes and among diverse quadruplex motifs.
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