Detection of GNAQ mutations and reduction of cell viability in uveal melanoma cells with functionalized gold nanoparticles

Biomed Microdevices. 2015 Feb;17(1):15. doi: 10.1007/s10544-014-9908-7.


Background: Uveal melanoma (UM) is the most common primary intraocular malignancy in adults. Early treatment may improve any chances of preventing metastatic disease, but diagnosis of small UM is challenging. Up to 95 % of all UMs carry somatic mutations in the G-coupled proteins GNAQ and GNA11 promoting anchorage-independent growth and proliferation. About 50 % of UMs are fatal. Once metastatic, patients have limited options for successful therapy.

Methods: We have developed functionalized gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) to visualize transcripts of mutant GNAQ mRNA in living cells. In addition to their suitability as a specific tool for GNAQ mutation detection, we have developed a novel linker that enables conjugation of siRNAs to AuNPs allowing for greater and more rapid intracellular release of siRNAs compared to previously described approaches.

Results: Binding of modified AuNPs to matching target mRNA leads to conformational changes, resulting in a detectable fluorescent signal that can be used for mutation detection in living cells. Knockdown of GNAQ with siRNA-AuNPs effectively reduced downstream signals and decreased cell viability in GNAQ mutant uveal melanoma cells.

Conclusion: AuNPs may in future be developed to serve as sensors for mutations of vital importance. The new release system for siRNA-AuNP improves previous systems, which conceivably will be useful for future therapeutic gene regulatory approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits* / genetics
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits* / metabolism
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, Gq-G11
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques / methods*
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / genetics
  • Melanoma* / metabolism
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasm Proteins* / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins* / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger* / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger* / metabolism
  • RNA, Neoplasm* / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm* / metabolism
  • Uveal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Uveal Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Uveal Neoplasms* / pathology


  • GNAQ protein, human
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Gold
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, Gq-G11