A luminescent europium hairpin for DNA photosensing in the visible, based on trimetallic bis-intercalators

Luca Scarpantonio, Simon A. Cotton, Elena Del Giorgio, M. Mccallum, Mike Hannon, Zoe Pikramenou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
209 Downloads (Pure)


Luminescence monitoring of DNA intercalator complexes is important for assessing their localisation and targeting: We report herein a luminescent hetero-trimetallic complex with europium as a luminescent reporter and two attached platinum acetylide terpyridyl units as the DNA recognition units. The ligand, based on a bisamide derivative of diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid functionalized with two ethynyl groups, provides a backbone to anchor two platinum terpyridyl units, Pt-tpy, leading to the hairpin-shaped heterometallic complex 1. We also prepared a related mono-nuclear platinum complex 2 to compare its intercalation properties with 1. Linear dichroism, UV–visible and melting experiments show the ability of both complexes to interact with calf thymus DNA, with linear dichroism confirming intercalation and demonstrating the expected greater DNA stiffening by the bis-intercalator 1. Importantly, the tri-metallic complex 1 shows a three-fold enhancement in europium luminescence upon addition of calf thymus DNA; other mono-intercalator lanthanide designs have commonly shown a decrease in emission on binding. The ability of the complex to monitor DNA interactions gives the potential use as a luminescence switch in sensing experiments and highlights the design of heterometallic bis-intercalator complexes as an effective approach for DNA-responsive sensitisation of a lanthanide luminescence signal.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111119
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Inorganic Biochemistry
Early online date23 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the EU DNAREC Marie Curie Training Site ( MEST-CT-2005-020842 , L.S.) and E.D.G acknowledges support from Dstl . Some of the spectrometers used in this research were obtained, through Birmingham Science City: Innovative Uses for Advanced Materials in the Modern World (West Midlands Centre for Advanced Materials Project 2), with support from Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and partial funding by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • DNA intercalation
  • Heterometallic complexes
  • Lanthanide
  • Luminescence
  • Sensitisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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