Single Quantum Dot-Based Nanosensor for Sensitive Detection of O‑GlcNAc Transferase Activity

Protein glycosylation is a ubiquitous post-translational modification that plays crucial roles in modulating biological recognition events in development and physiology. Human O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) is an intracellular enzyme responsible for O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) glycosylation, and the deregulation of OGT activity occurs in cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disease. Here we develop a single quantum dot (QD)-based nanosensor for sensitive OGT assay. We design a Cy5/biotin-modified peptide with a serine hydroxyl group for sensing OGT and a protease site adjacent to the glycosylation site for proteinase cleavage, with a universal nonradioactive UDP-GlcNAc as the sugar donor and a Cy5/biotin-modified peptide as the substrate. In the presence of OGT, it catalyzes the glycosylation reaction to generate a glycosylated peptide that is a protease-protection peptide. The resultant glycosylated Cy5/biotin-modified peptides may assemble on the surface of the streptavidin-coated QD to obtain a QD–peptide–Cy5 nanostructure in which the fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) from the QD to Cy5 can occur, leading to the emission of Cy5 which can be quantified by single-molecule detection. This method exhibits high sensitivity with a limit of detection of 3.47 × 10–13 M, and it is very simple and straightforward without the involvement of any enzyme purification, radioisotope-labeled sugar donors, specific antibodies, and the synthesis of fluorescent UDP-GlcNAc analogues. Moreover, this method can be used for enzyme kinetic analysis, quantitative detection of cellular OGT activity, and the screening of OGT inhibitors, holding great potential for further application in drug discovery and clinical diagnosis.