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A simple, highly sensitive, and dual-readout fluorescent assay is developed for the detection of protein kinase activity based on the specific recognition utility of TiO2-coated Fe3O4/SiO2 magnetic microspheres (TMSPs) for kinase-induced phosphopeptides. When the fluorophore-labeled substrate peptides are phosphorylated by the kinase reaction, they can bind specifically to the TiO2 layer of TMSPs by means of phosphate groups, resulting in fluorophore enrichment on the TMSP surfaces. The accumulated fluorophores on the TMSPs are proportional to the kinase activity, and the fluorescence signal readout could be run through either direct fluorescent imaging of the TMSPs or measurement of the fluorescence intensity by simply detaching the fluorescent phosphopeptides into the solution. The TMSPs exhibit extremely high selectivity for capturing phosphorylated peptides over the nonphosphorylated ones, resulting in an ultrahigh fluorescence signal-to-background ratio of 42, which is the highest fluorescence change thus far in fluorescent assays for detection of protein kinase activities. Therefore, the proposed fluorescent assay presents high sensitivity, low detection limit of 0.1 milliunit/μL, and wide dynamic range from 0.5 milliunit/μL to 0.5 unit/μL with protein kinase A (PKA) as a model target. Moreover, the TMSP-based fluorescent assay can simultaneously quantify multiple kinase activities with their specific peptides labeled with different dyes. This new strategy is also successfully applied to monitoring drug-triggered PKA activation in cell lysates. Therefore, the TMSP-based fluorescent assay is very promising in high-throughput screening of kinase inhibitors and in highly sensitive detection of kinase activity, and thus it is a valuable tool for development of targeted therapy, clinical diagnosis, and studies of fundamental life science.


Jie Bai, Yunjie Zhao, Zhibin Wang, Chenghui Liu, Yucong Wang, Zhengping Li. Dual-readout fluorescent assay of protein kinase activity by use of TiO2-coated magnetic microspheres. Analytical chemistry. 2013 May 7;85(9):4813-21

PMID: 23581884

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