In Vivo Monitoring of Intracellular Metabolite in a Microalgal Cell Using an Aptamer/Graphene Oxide Nanosheet Complex

Cho Rok Jin, Jee Young Kim, Da Hee Kim, Min Seo Jeon, Yoon E. Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Real-time sensing and imaging of intracellular metabolites in living cells are crucial tools for the characterization of complex biological processes, including the dynamic fluctuation of metabolites. Therefore, additional efforts are required to develop in vivo detection strategies for the visualization and quantification of specific target metabolites, particularly in microalgae. In this study, we developed a strategy to monitor a specific microalgal metabolite in living cells using an aptamer/graphene oxide nanosheet (GOnS) complex. As a proof-of-concept, β-carotene, an antioxidant pigment that accumulates in most microalgal species, was chosen as a target metabolite. To achieve this, a β-carotene-specific aptamer was selected through graphene oxide-assisted systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (GO-SELEX) and characterized thereafter. The aptamer could sensitively sense the changes in the concentration of β-carotene (i.e., the target metabolite) and more specifically bind to β-carotene than to nontargets. The selected aptamer was labeled with a fluorophore (fluorescein; FAM) and allowed to form an aptamer/GOnS complex that protected the aptamer from nucleic cleavages. The aptamer/GOnS complex was delivered into the cells via electroporation, thus enabling the sensitive monitoring of β-carotene in the cell by quantifying the aptamer fluorescence intensity. The results suggest that our biocompatible strategy could be employed to visualize and semiquantify intracellular microalgae metabolites in vivo, which holds a great potential in diverse fields such as metabolite analysis and mutant screening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5080-5089
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Bio Materials
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun 21

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) Grant funded by the Korean government (MSIP) (2019R1A2C2087449 and 2018M3A9F3055925). In addition, this research was supported by Korea University Future Research Grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Chemical Society.


  • Euglena gracilis
  • aptamer delivery
  • on-site detection
  • β-carotene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, medical


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