Fluorescence detection and imaging are vital technologies in the life sciences and clinical diagnostics. The key to obtaining high-resolution images and sensitive detection is to use fluorescent molecules or particles that absorb and emit visible light with high efficiency. We have synthesized supramolecular complexes consisting of a branched DNA template and fluorogenic intercalating dyes. Because dyes can intercalate up to every other base pair, high densities of fluorophores are assembled yet the DNA template keeps them far enough away from each other to prevent self-quenching. The efficiency with which these noncovalent assemblies absorb light is more than 10-fold greater than that of the individual dye molecules. Förster resonance energy transfer from the intercalated dyes to covalently attached acceptor dyes is very efficient, allowing for wavelength shifting of the emission spectrum. Simple biotinylation of the DNA template allows for labeling of streptavidin-coated synthetic microspheres and mouse T-cells.
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