DNA-based platform for efficient and precisely targeted bioorthogonal catalysis in living systems

Yawen You, Qingqing Deng, Yibo Wang, Yanjuan Sang, Guangming Li, Fang Pu, Jinsong Ren, Xiaogang Qu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


As one of the typical bioorthogonal reactions, copper(I)-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC) reaction holds great potential in organic synthesis, bioconjugation, and surface functionalization. However, the toxicity of Cu(I), inefficient catalytic activity, and the lack of cell specific targeting of the existing catalysts hampered their practical applications in living systems. Herein, we design and construct a DNA-based platform as a biocompatible, highly efficient, and precisely targeted bioorthogonal nanocatalyst. The nanocatalyst presents excellent catalytic efficiency in vitro, which is one order of magnitude higher than the commonly used catalyst CuSO4/sodium ascorbate. The theoretical calculation further supports the contribution of DNA structure and its interaction with substrates to the superior catalytic activity. More importantly, the system can achieve efficient prodrug activation in cancer cells through cell type-specific recognition and produce a 40-fold enhancement of transformation compared to the non-targeting nanocatalyst, resulting in enhanced antitumor efficacy and reduced adverse effects. In vivo tumor therapy demonstrates the safety and efficacy of the system in mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1459
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


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