Noninvasive in situ ratiometric imaging of biometals based on self-assembled peptide nanoribbon

Lil Lei, Min Li, Sufen Wu, Zhial Xu, Ping Geng, Yang Tian, Ying Fu, Wen Zhang

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Development of probes for accurate sensing and imaging of biometals in situ is still a growing interest owing to their crucial roles in cellular metabolism, neurotransmission, and apoptosis. Among them, Zn2+ and Cu2+ are two important cooperative biometals closely related to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Herein, we developed a multifunctional probe based on self-assembling peptide nanoribbon for ratiometric sensing of Zn2+, Cu2+, or Zn2+ and Cu2+ simultaneously. Uniform peptide nanoribbon (AQZ@NR) was rationally designed by coassembling a Zn2+-specific ligand AQZ-modified peptide (AQZKL-7) with peptide KL-7. The nanoribbon further combined with Cu2+-sensitive near-infrared quantum dots (NIR QDs) and Alexa Fluor 633 as an inner reference molecule, which was endowed with the capability for ratiometric Zn2+ and Cu2+ imaging at the same time. The peptide-based probe exhibited good specificity to Zn2+ and Cu2+ without interference from other ions. Importantly, the nanoprobe was successfully applied for noninvasive Zn2+ and Cu2+ monitoring in both living cells and zebrafish via multicolor fluorescence imaging. This gives insights into the dynamic Zn2+ and Cu2+ distribution in an intracellular and in vivo mode, as well as understanding the neurotoxicity of high concentration of Zn2+ and Cu2+. Therefore, the self-assembled nanoprobe shows great promise in multiplexed detection of many other biometals and biomolecules, which will benefit the diagnosis and treatment of AD in clinical applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5838–5845
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number8
Early online date2 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2020


  • sensing
  • biometal imaging
  • cellular metabolism


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