Switchable luminescent bioprobes whose emission can be turned on as a function of specific enzymatic activity are emerging as important tools in chemical biology. We report a promising platform for the development of label-free and continuous enzymatic assays in high-throughput mode based on the reversible solvent-induced self-assembly of a neutral dinuclear Pt(II) complex. To demonstrate the utility of this strategy, the switchable luminescence of a dinuclear Pt(II) complex was utilized in developing an experimentally simple, fast (10 min), low cost, and label-free turn-on luminescence assay for the endonuclease enzyme DNAse I. The complex displays a near-IR (NIR) aggregation-induced emission at 785 nm in aqueous solution that is completely quenched upon binding to G-quadruplex DNA from the human c-myc oncogene. Luminescence is restored upon DNA degradation elicited by exposure to DNAse I. Correlation between near-IR luminescence intensity and DNAse I concentration in human serum samples allows for fast and label-free detection of DNAse I down to 0.002 U/mL. The Pt(II) complex/DNA assembly is also effective for identification of DNAse I inhibitors, and assays can be performed in multiwell plates compatible with high-throughput screening. The combination of sensitivity, speed, convenience, and cost render this method superior to all other reported luminescence-based DNAse I assays. The versatile response of the Pt(II) complex to DNA structures promises broad potential applications in developing real-time and label-free assays for other nucleases as well as enzymes that regulate DNA topology.
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