UiO-66 metal-organic framework nanoparticles (NMOFs) gated by aptamer-functionalized DNA tetrahedra provide superior biomarker-responsive hybrid nano-carriers for biomedical applications. Hybrid nano-carriers consisting of ATP-aptamer or VEGF-aptamer functionalized tetrahedra-gated NMOFs are loaded with the chemotherapeutic drug, doxorubicin (DOX). In the presence of ATP or VEGF, both abundant in cancer cells, the tetrahedra-gated NMOFs are unlocked to release the drug. Enhanced and selective permeation of the DOX-loaded ATP/VEGF-responsive tetrahedra-gated NMOFs into MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells as compared to the reference ATP/VEGF-responsive duplex-gated NMOFs or non-malignant MCF-10A epithelial breast cells is observed. This results in enhanced and selective cytotoxicity of the tetrahedra-gated DOX-loaded NMOFs toward the malignant cells. Additional nano-carriers, consisting of photosensitizer Zn(ii) protoporphyrin IX (Zn(ii)-PPIX)-loaded VEGF-responsive tetrahedra-gated NMOFs, are introduced. The VEGF-triggered unlocking of the NMOFs yields separated G-quadruplex-VEGF aptamer complexes conjugated to the tetrahedra, resulting in the release of loaded Zn(ii)-PPIX. Association of the released Zn(ii)-PPIX to the G-quadruplex structures generates highly fluorescent supramolecular Zn(ii)-PPIX/G-quadruplex VEGF aptamer-tetrahedra structures. The efficient and selective generation of the highly fluorescent Zn(ii)-PPIX/G-quadruplex VEGF aptamer-tetrahedra nanostructures in malignant cells allows the light-induced photosensitized generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), leading to high-efficacy PDT treatment of the malignant cells.
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