Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic the actions of endogenous estrogens. The abundance of these chemicals in nature and their potential effects on health require the development of a convenient method to detect phytoestrogens. We have developed a nanoparticle (NP)-conjugated FRET probe based on the human estrogen receptor α (ER) ligand-binding domain (LBD) to detect phytoestrogens. The NP-conjugated FRET probe showed fluorescence signals for genistein, resveratrol and daidzein compounds with Δ ratios of 1.65, 2.60 and 1.37 respectively, which are approximately six times greater compared to individual FRET probes. A significantly higher signal for resveratrol versus genistein and daidzein indicates that the probe can differentiate between antagonistic phytoalexin substances and agonistic isoflavone compounds. NP-conjugated probes demonstrated a wide dynamic range, ranging from 10−18 to 10−1 M with EC50 values of 9.6 × 10−10, 9.0 × 10−10 and 9.2 × 10−10 M for genistein, daidzein and resveratrol respectively, whereas individual probes detected concentrations of 10−13 to 10−4 M for phytoestrogens compounds. The time profile revealed that the NP-conjugated probe is stable over 30 h and there is not a significant deviation in the FRET signal at room temperature. These data demonstrate that conjugation of a FRET probe to nanoparticles is able to serve as an effective FRET sensor for monitoring bioactive compounds with significantly increased sensitivity, dynamic range and stability.
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