College of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Key Laboratory of Molecular and Nano Probes, Ministry of Education, Collaborative Innovation Center of Functionalized Probes for Chemical Imaging in Universities of Shandong, Shandong Normal University, Jinan 250014, P. R. China. [Email]
Urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) has been shown to activate matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) that leads to the migration and invasion of breast cancer cells. Overexpressed uPA and MMP-2 are regarded as signs of malignant tumors in clinical practice. Therefore, real-time monitoring of the sequential activation of these two signal molecules may have important implications for the evaluation of the invasive potential and tumor progression of breast cancer. However, due to the complicated intracellular environment, visualizing the dynamic changes of protein expression levels in living cells with a noninvasive method is still a great challenge. Here, a novel gold-selenium (Au-Se) fluorescent nanoprobe with excellent selectivity and strong anti-interference capability was designed for the simultaneous in situ imaging of uPA and MMP-2 and real-time monitoring of their changes in living cells. The imaging results demonstrated that the nanoprobe achieved a better prevention of glutathione interference compared to the conventional Au-S nanoprobe, thus it could be applied to actually reflect the expression level of uPA and MMP-2 in different breast cancer cells. Furthermore, the Au-Se nanoprobe could visually present the activation process of the two signal molecules, which play a dual role of insuring the invasiveness evaluation of breast cancer cells. Overall, our work offers a visual biomarker detection method for the judgment of the degree of breast cancer malignancy, and also provides an effective strategy to investigate the relationships among signal molecules of other signaling pathways in the future.