Light-emitting crystals of aptamer-hybrid organic semiconductor signaling on human cells expressing EpCAM

Suin Shin, Yong Ho Cho, Jin Hyuk Park, Dong June Ahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, we successfully performed protein-cell recognition by combining an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) material and an aptamer with a three-dimensional DNA structure. Tris (8-hydroxyquinoline) aluminum (Alq3), one of the most widely used green OLED components used in displays, was chosen as an emitter. Epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) was selected as a target because it is well-established in cancer studies. The generated micrometer-sized particles exhibited increased luminous intensity based on the specific recognition to proteins and cells on hybrid interfaces, proving that the aptamer maintained its three-dimensional structure while binding to its target. Interestingly, only human cells expressing EpCAMs were distinguishable, whereas mouse carcinoma cells were not. Furthermore, use of graphene oxide as a quencher made these aptamer-Alq3 microrods 2-fold more effective at enhancing the fluorescence signal upon interaction with human oral squamous carcinoma cells. This new approach, which imparts biometric functionality to organic semiconductor materials, will provide a new platform for the evolution of OLED hybrid materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-275
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec 25

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (MSIP 2021R1A2C3009955), and a Korea University Grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Korean Society of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry


  • Cell recognition
  • OLED-aptamer hybrid crystals
  • Specific binding aptamer
  • Turn-on sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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