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The development of novel assays for protease sensing plays an important role in clinical diagnostics and therapeutics. Herein, we report a supramolecular platform for label-free protease detection, based on protein/dye self-assembly and enzyme-triggered disassembly. In a typical case, coassembly of protamine sulfate and perylene dye via electrostatic attractions and π-π interactions caused significant colorimetric and fluorescent responses. Subsequent addition of trypsin was found to cleave the amide bonds of protein, triggering the dissociation of protein/dye aggregates and the release of perylene dyes. The enzyme-triggered disassembly was transduced into multiple readouts including absorption, fluorescence, and polarization, which were exploited for trypsin detection and inhibitor testing. This assay was also used for turn-on fluorescence detection of cathepsin B, an enzyme known to be overexpressed in mammalian cancer cells. The integration of supramolecular self-assembly into enzyme detection in this work has provided a novel label-free biosensing platform which is highly sensitive with multimodal readouts. The relative simplicity of the approach avoids the need for time-consuming substrate synthesis, and is also amenable to naked eye detection.

Original publication




Journal article


Anal Chem

Publication Date





6410 - 6417


Animals, Biosensing Techniques, Cathepsin B, Cattle, Fluorescence, Fluorescent Dyes, Humans, Perylene, Salmon, Spectrometry, Fluorescence, Trypsin