A series of luminescent iridium(iii) complexes were synthesised and evaluated for their ability to act as luminescent G-quadruplex-selective probes. The iridium(iii) complex 9 [Ir(pbi)2(5,5-dmbpy)]PF6 (where pbi = 2-phenyl-1H-benzo[d]imidazole; 5,5-dmbpy = 5,5′-dimethyl-2,2′-bipyridine) exhibited high luminescence for G-quadruplex DNA compared to dsDNA and ssDNA, and was employed to construct a G-quadruplex-based assay for protein tyrosine kinase-7 (PTK7) in aqueous solution. PTK7 is an important biomarker for a range of leukemias and solid tumors. In the presence of PTK7, the specific binding of the sgc8 aptamer sequence triggers a structural transition and releases the G-quadruplex-forming sequence. The formation of the nascent G-quadruplex structure is then detected by the G-quadruplex-selective iridium(iii) complex with an enhanced luminescent response. Moreover, the application of the assay for detecting PTK7 in cellular debris and membrane protein extract was demonstrated. To our knowledge, this is the first G-quadruplex-based assay for PTK7.
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