The glucose metabolism rate in cancer cells is a crucial piece of information for the cancer aggressiveness. A feasible method to monitor processes of oncogenic mutations has been demonstrated in this work. The fluorescent gold nanoclusters conjugated with glucose (glucose-AuNCs) were successfully synthesized as a cancer-targeting probe for glucose transporters (Gluts) overexpressed by U-87 MG cancer cells, which can be observed under confocal microscopy. The structural and optical characterizations of fluorescent glucose-AuNCs were confirmed by transmission electron microscope (TEM) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The MTT assay exhibited the high biocompatibility of water-soluble glucose-AuNCs for further biomedical applications. The glucose metabolic cleavage of glucose-AuNCs by glycolytic enzymes from U-87 MG cancer cell was measured by fluorescence change of glucose-AuNCs. The fluorescence change based on the integrated area under fluorescence spectra (At) of glucose-AuNCs was plotted as a function of different reaction time (t) with glycolytic enzymes. The fitted curve of At versus t showed the first-order kinetics to explain the mechanism of glucose metabolic cleavage rate of glucose-AuNCs by glycolytic enzymes. The rate constant k could be utilized to determine the glucose metabolism rate of glucose-AuNCs for the quantitative analysis of cancer aggressiveness. Our work provides a practical application of target-specific glucose-AuNCs as a fluorescence probe to analyze the glucose metabolism in Gluts overexpressed cancer cells.
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