Theranostics 2018; 8(16):4332-4344. doi:10.7150/thno.26768 This issue

Research Paper

Aptamer-functionalized nanoscale metal-organic frameworks for targeted photodynamic therapy

Hong-Min Meng1*, Xiao-Xiao Hu2*, Ge-Zhi Kong2, Chan Yang2, Ting Fu2, Zhao-Hui Li1✉, Xiao-Bing Zhang2✉

1. Henan Joint International Research Laboratory of Green Construction of Functional Molecules and Their Bioanalytical Applications, College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou 450001, P. R. China.
2. Molecular Sciences and Biomedicine Laboratory, State Key Laboratory for Chemo/Biosensing and Chemometrics, College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Collaborative Innovation Center for Chemistry and Molecular Medicine, Hunan University, Changsha 410082, P. R. China.
* Authors contributed equally to this work

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Meng HM, Hu XX, Kong GZ, Yang C, Fu T, Li ZH, Zhang XB. Aptamer-functionalized nanoscale metal-organic frameworks for targeted photodynamic therapy. Theranostics 2018; 8(16):4332-4344. doi:10.7150/thno.26768. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) has been applied in clinical cancer treatment. Here we report an aptamer-functionalized nanoscale metal-organic framework for targeted PDT. Our nanosystem can be easily prepared and successfully used for targeted PDT with a significantly enhanced therapeutic efficacy in vitro and in vivo.

Methods: By combining the strong binding ability between phosphate-terminated aptamers and Zr-based nanoscale metal-organic frameworks (Zr-NMOFs) and the intercalation of photosensitizer TMPyP4 within the G-quadruplex DNA structure, TMPyP4-G4-aptamer-NMOFs were prepared. The characteristics and photodynamic performance of TMPyP4-G4-aptamer-NMOFs were examined after preparation. Then, we studied their stability, specific recognition ability, and phototoxicity in vitro. For in vivo experiments, the nanosystem was intratumorally injected into a HeLa subcutaneous xenograft tumor mouse model. After irradiation on day 0, mice were further injected with the nanosystem on day 5 and were again subjected to laser irradiation for 30 min. Tumor volumes and body weights of all mice were measured by caliper every 2 days after the treatment.

Results: The nanosystem induced 90% cell death of targeted cells. In contrast, the control cells maintained about 40% cell viability at the same concentration of nanosystem. For the in vivo experiments, the nanosystem-treated group maintained more than 76% inhibition within the entire experimental period.

Conclusion: We have demonstrated that our smart TMPyP4-G4-sgc8-NMOFs nanosystem can be used for targeted cancer therapy with high efficiency.

Keywords: nanoscale metal-organic frameworks, aptamer, G-quadruplex, TMPyP4, photodynamic therapy