Graphene quantum dots with Zn2+ and Ni2+ conjugates can cleave supercoiled DNA

Fei Liu, Fangwei Zhang, Hui Liu, Jingyan Zhang, Shouwu Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Graphene quantum dots (GQDs), inheriting the superb property of graphene oxide, possess smaller lateral size and high biocompatibility, thus having potential in biomedical applications. We previously discovered that GQDs, combining with Cu2+ ions, could cleave DNA primarily through an oxidative pathway; yet, oxidative DNA cleavage is not practically preferred in biology. In this work, we explore the DNA cleavage ability of GQDs with Zn2+ and Ni2+. Zn2+ and Ni2+ alone are incapable of cleaving supercoiled DNA, but when combining with the GQDs, Zn2+ and Ni2+ exhibit DNA cleavage activity. However, the activity of these two systems is much lower than that of GQDs/Cu2+, and GQDs/Ni2+ is less active than GQDs/Zn2+. The functional mechanism of GQDs/Ni2+ and GQDs/Zn2+ is different from that of GQDs/Cu2+. The GQDs play a key role in the two systems; the redox inactive Zn2+ and Ni2+ ions assist to generate the oxidative species that eventually lead to the DNA cleavage. The current results together with our previous result indicate that GQDs together with metal ions can cleave supercoiled DNA, and their cleavage activities depend on the properties of metal ions: for redox active metal ions, metal ions play key roles, for redox inactive metal ions, GQDs are dominant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3395-3402
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Coordination Chemistry
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 16 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA cleavage
  • Graphene quantum dots
  • Ni
  • Zn
  • complexes


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