A DNA-silver nanocluster probe that fluoresces upon hybridization

Hsin Chih Yeh, Jaswinder Sharma, Jason J. Han, Jennifer S. Martinez, James H. Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

589 Scopus citations


DNA-templated silver nanoclusters (DNA/Ag NCs) are an emerging set of fluorophores that are smaller than semiconductor quantum dots and can have better photostability and brightness than commonly used organic dyes. Here we find the red fluorescence of DNA/Ag NCs can be enhanced 500-fold when placed in proximity to guanine-rich DNA sequences. On the basis of this new phenomenon, we have designed a DNA detection probe (NanoCluster Beacon, NCB) that lights up upon target binding. Since NCBs do not rely on Förster energy transfer for quenching, they can easily reach high (>100) signal-to-background ratios (S/B ratios) upon target binding. Here, in a separation-free assay, we demonstrate NCB detection of an influenza target with a S/B ratio of 175, a factor of 5 better than a conventional molecular beacon probe. Since the observed fluorescence enhancement is caused by intrinsic nucleobases, our detection technique is simple, inexpensive, and compatible with commercial DNA synthesizers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3106-3110
Number of pages5
JournalNano Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 11 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Noble metal fluorescent nanoclusters
  • nanobiosensors
  • nucleic acid detection
  • separation-free probes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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