The ability to inhibit an enzyme in a specific tissue with high spatial resolution combined with a readily available antidote should find many biomedical applications. We have accomplished this by taking advantage of the cis–trans photoisomerization of azobenzene molecules. Specifically, we positioned azobenzene moieties within the DNA sequence complementary to a 15-base-long thrombin aptamer and then linked the azobenzene-modified cDNA to the aptamer by a polyethylene glycol (PEG) linker to make a unimolecular conjugate. During the photoisomerization of azobenzene by visible light, the inhibition of thrombin is disabled because the probe hybridizes with the cDNA in the trans-azobenzene conformation so that the aptamer cannot bind its target thrombin. However, when UV light is applied, melting of the hairpin structure (duplex) is induced via trans-to-cis conversion, thereby changing conformation of the aptamer and making the aptamer free to bind to and inhibit its target thrombin. By using standard clotting assays, we measured the IC200 of various probe designs in both states and concluded the feasibility of using photon energy to temporally and spatially regulate these enzymatic reactions. Thus, we can report the development of DNA probes in the form of photon-controllable (thrombin) inhibitors, termed PCIs, and we expect that this approach will be highly beneficial in future biomedical and pharmaceutical applications
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