A designer DNA tetrahedron-based molecular beacon for tumor-related microRNA fluorescence imaging in living cells

Analyst. 2022 May 17;147(10):2231-2237. doi: 10.1039/d2an00418f.


The accurate and effective imaging of tumor-related miRNA in living cells has been playing an increasingly important role in cancer imaging. However, due to the low miRNA content and complex intracellular microenvironment, the current imaging methods of miRNAs in living cells still have some limitations. In this work, we developed a designer nanoprobe of tetrahedral DNA framework (TDF) combined with MB (termed TDFM nanoprobe) for the efficient fluorescence imaging of tumor-related miRNA-214 in living cells. In cell-free experiments, we demonstrated that the TDFM nanoprobe has sensitive detection and good specificity by fluorescence measurements. Before the TDFM nanoprobe was used for intracellular miRNA-214 fluorescence imaging, we confirmed its intracellular stability and negligible cytotoxicity by a standard MTT assay. In intracellular imaging experiments, we observed the strong fluorescence signal exhibited by the cells incubated with the TDFM nanoprobe using confocal fluorescence microscopy, which indicated that the TDFM nanoprobe was suitable for detecting and imaging tumor-related miRNA-214 in living cells. Furthermore, under the optimal incubation conditions, we employed the TDFM nanoprobe to study differences in the expression levels of tumor-related miRNA-214 in human breast cancer cells (MCF-7) and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC). The TDFM nanoprobe we designed shows great potential to be applied in the development of DNA nanodevices, providing an improved strategy for the fluorescence imaging of miRNAs in living cells.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Molecular Imaging
  • Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Optical Imaging
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • MIRN214 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • DNA