A novel proton-fueled molecular gate-like delivery system has been constructed for controlled cargo release using i-motif quadruplex DNA as caps onto pore outlets of mesoporous silica nanoparticles. Start from simple conformation changes, the i-motif DNA cap can open and close the pore system in smart response to pH stimulus. Importantly, the opening/closing and delivery protocol is highly reversible and a partial cargo delivery can be easily controlled at will. A pH-switchable nanoreactor has also been developed to validate the potential of our system for on-demand molecular transport. This proof of concept might open the door to a new generation of carrier materials and could also provide a general route to use other functional nucleic acids/peptide nucleic acids as capping agents in the fields of versatile controlled delivery nanodevices
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