Theranostics 2018; 8(20):5625-5633. doi:10.7150/thno.27680 This issue

Research Paper

Cascaded Electrochemiluminescence Signal Amplifier for the Detection of Telomerase Activity from Tumor Cells and Tissues

Zhaoyan Zhao1,4*, Qingqin Tan1,4*, Xiaoxia Zhan7, Jingyan Lin6, Zhijin Fan1, Keng Xiao1, Bing Li1, Yuhui Liao1,2,4,6✉, Xi Huang1,2,3,4,5,6✉

1. Program of Infection and Immunity, the Fifth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangdong, China
2. Department of Internal Medicine, Guangzhou Women and Children's Medical Center, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China
3. Sino-French Hoffmann Institute of Immunology, College of Basic Medical Science, Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou, China
4. Key Laboratory of Tropical Diseases Control, Ministry of Education, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China
5. The First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China
6. Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Pathogen and Immunity, State Key Discipline of Infectious Disease, Shenzhen Third People's Hospital, Shenzhen, China
7. Department of Laboratory Medicine, the First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.
*These 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.
Zhao Z, Tan Q, Zhan X, Lin J, Fan Z, Xiao K, Li B, Liao Y, Huang X. Cascaded Electrochemiluminescence Signal Amplifier for the Detection of Telomerase Activity from Tumor Cells and Tissues. Theranostics 2018; 8(20):5625-5633. doi:10.7150/thno.27680. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Telomerase is closely linked to the physiological transformation of tumor cells and is commonly overexpressed in most types of tumor cells. Therefore, telomerase has become a potential biomarker for the process of tumorigenesis, progression, prognosis and metastasis. Thus, it is important to develop a simple, accurate and reliable method for detecting telomerase activity. As a high signal-to-noise ratio mode, electrochemiluminescence (ECL) has been widely applied in the field of biomedical analysis. Here, our objective was to construct an improved ECL signal amplifier for the detection of telomerase activity.

Methods: A cascaded ECL signal amplifier was constructed to detect telomerase activity with high selectivity via controllable construction of a lysine-based dendric Ru(bpy)32+ polymer (DRP). The sensitivity, specificity and performance index were simultaneously evaluated by standard substance and cell and tissue samples.

Results: With this cascaded ECL signal amplifier, high sensitivities of 100, 50, and 100 cells for three tumor cell lines (A549, MCF7 and HepG2 cell lines) were simultaneously achieved, and desirable specificity was also obtained. Furthermore, the excellent performance of this platform was also demonstrated in the detection of telomerase in tumor cells and tissues.

Conclusion: This cascaded ECL signal amplifier has the potential to be a technological innovation in the field of telomerase activity detection.

Keywords: signal amplifier, telomerase activity, tumor cell, tumor tissue