Dual targeting luminescent gold nanoclusters for tumor imaging and deep tissue therapy

Dan Chen, Bowen Li, Songhua Cai, Peng Wang, Shuwen Peng, Yuanzhi Sheng, Yuanyuan He, Yueqing Gu, Haiyan Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

110 Citations (Scopus)


Dual targeting towards both extracellular and intracellular receptors specific to tumor is a significant approach for cancer diagnosis and therapy. In the present study, a novel nano-platform (AuNC-cRGD-Apt) with dual targeting function was initially established by conjugating gold nanocluster (AuNC) with cyclic RGD (cRGD) that is specific to αvβ3integrins over-expressed on the surface of tumor tissues and aptamer AS1411 (Apt) that is of high affinity to nucleolin over-expressed in the cytoplasm and nucleus of tumor cells. Then, AuNC-cRGD-Apt was further functionalized with near infrared (NIR) fluorescence dye (MPA), giving a NIR fluorescent dual-targeting probe AuNC-MPA-cRGD-Apt. AuNC-MPA-cRGD-Apt displays low cytotoxicity and favorable tumor-targeting capability at both in vitro and in vivo level, suggesting its clinical potential for tumor imaging. Additionally, Doxorubicin (DOX), a widely used clinical chemotherapeutic drug that kill cancer cells by intercalating DNA in cellular nucleus, was immobilized onto AuNC-cRGD-Apt forming a pro-drug, AuNC-DOX-cRGD-Apt. The enhanced tumor affinity, deep tumor penetration and improved anti-tumor activity of this pro-drug were demonstrated in different tumor cell lines, tumor spheroid and tumor-bearing mouse models. Results in this study suggest not only the prospect of non-toxic AuNC modified with two targeting ligands for tumor targeted imaging, but also confirm the promising future of dual targeting AuNC as a core for the design of prodrug in the field of cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Aptamer
  • Gold nanoclusters
  • Tumor diagnosis
  • Tumor spheroid
  • Tumor-targeting
  • Tumor-targeting therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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