Sensing of transcription factor binding via cyanine dye pair fluorescence lifetime changes

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Radiology

Publication Date


Document Type



Binding Sites; Carbocyanines; Fluorescence; Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer; NF-kappa B; Oligonucleotide Probes


Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins | Chemical Actions and Uses | Chemistry | Diagnosis | Investigative Techniques | Radiology


We designed and synthesized sensors for imaging transcription factor-DNA interactions using a complementary pair of 21-base pair long oligonucleotides (ODNs) carrying two internucleoside phosphate-linked cyanine fluorophores that can either engage in Forster's resonance energy transfer (FRET) with fluorescence emission or assemble into a ground state quenched dimer with short fluorescence lifetimes (FL). Cyanine fluorophores were linked to ODNs within the NF-kappaB binding site. These sensors were tested in the presence of recombinant p50 and p65 NF-kappaB proteins or constitutively NF-kappaB activating HeLa cell lysates. By using a coherent light excitation source we followed changes in fluorescence lifetime of the donor (Cy5.5) at the donor's excitation and emission light wavelengths, as well as the acceptor (800CW or Cy7 cyanine fluorophores) in FRET mode. We observed increases in the donor lifetime in both emitting (0.08-0.15 ns) and non-emitting quenched (0.21 ns) sensors in response to protein binding. The measurements of lifetimes in FRET mode in quenched pair-carrying ODN duplex sensors showed significant differences in FL of the acceptor cyanine fluorophore between NF-kappaB-containing and NF-kappaB-free samples but not in control sensors with ODN sequences that have decreased binding affinity to NF-kappaB. We anticipate that the observed effects will be instrumental for developing sensors enabling non-invasive imaging in cells that undergo activation of NF-kappaB.

DOI of Published Version



Mol Biosyst. 2012 Aug;8(8):2166-73. doi: 10.1039/c2mb25057h. Epub 2012 Jun 19. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Molecular bioSystems

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID