An aptamer-tethered, DNAzyme-embedded molecular beacon for simultaneous detection and regulation of tumor-related genes in living cells
Simultaneous detection and regulation of tumor-related genes presents a promising strategy for early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, but achieving this has been a huge challenge for both chemical and biomedical communities. Towards this objective, we have devised a novel aptamer-tethered, DNAzyme-embedded molecular beacon (MB) for multiple functions in cancer cells. In this design, a tumor targeting aptamer was employed to specifically deliver the sensor into cancer cells for target gene detection, and an RNA-cleaving DNAzyme was embedded to realize gene regulation. Both aptamer-tethering and DNAzyme-embedding had little influence on the sensor performance, with a detection limit of ∼2 nM and high specificity. After delivering into tumor cells, our device could monitor the tumor-related genes by producing detectable fluorescence signals, and regulate the gene expression at both mRNA and protein levels as evidenced by the RT-PCR and western blot analyses. This study provides a simple and efficient strategy to rationally combine various functional nucleic acids for multi-functional applications in living cells, which hold great potential for cancer diagnosis and therapy.