Langmuir, Vol.35, No.42, 13745-13752, 2019
Well-Optimized Conjugated GO-DNA Nanosystem for Sensitive Ratiometric pH Detection in Live Cells
Intracellular pH is a vital parameter which can reflect the physiological process, and the detection of intracellular pH with a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) remains a challenge. Compared to pH biosensors based on a single-wavelength signal, it is much easier to obtain better sensitivity and higher SNR from the biosensors by two-wavelength ratiometric signals. In this study, we used DNA-grafted graphene oxide (GO) to ratiometrically detect intracellular pH ranging from basic to acidic. A high SNR with a 35-fold difference in the ratiometric output has been achieved through careful optimization: (1) A high DNA conjugation yield of 45% has been gained through utilizing the partial double-stranded assembly strategy. (2) Herring sperm DNA (HSD) plays an important role in improving the sensitivity of the nanosystem by purifying and passivating the surface of GO; therefore, the concentration of HSD has been optimized to pursue the most sensitive ratiometric response. Apart from the ultrahigh SNR, fabricated GO-AR-Cy5/IFO-Cy3 exhibited excellent stability and biocompatibility in biological environments. Further experiments demonstrated that the nanosystem worked well in live cells in response to pH changes. It is possible to distinguish small pH differences and realize quantitative detection based on ratiometric fluorescence imaging by laser scanning confocal microscope analysis, which makes the nanosystem a promising candidate for further biological study and clinical applications.