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Vietz, Carolin; Lalkens, Birka; Acuna, Guillermo P.; Tinnefeld, Philip (2017): Synergistic Combination of Unquenching and Plasmonic Fluorescence Enhancement in Fluorogenic Nucleic Acid Hybridization Probes. In: Nano Letters, Vol. 17, No. 10: pp. 6496-6500
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Fluorogenic nucleic acid hybridization probes are widely used for detecting and quantifying nucleic acids. The achieved sensitivity strongly depends on the contrast between a quenched closed form and an unquenched opened form with liberated fluorescence. So far, this contrast was improved by improving the quenching efficiency of the closed form. In this study, we modularly combine these probes with optical antennas used for plasmonic fluorescence enhancement and study the effect of the nanophotonic structure on the fluorescence of the quenched and the opened form. As quenched fluorescent dyes are usually enhanced more by fluorescence enhancement, a detrimental reduction of the contrast between closed and opened form was anticipated. In contrast, we could achieve a surprising increase of the contrast with full additivity of quenching of the dark form and fluorescence enhancement of the bright form. Using single-molecule experiments, we demonstrate that the additivity of the two mechanisms depends on the perfect quenching in the quenched form, and we delineate the rules for new nucleic acid probes for enhanced contrast and absolute brightness. Fluorogenic hybridization probes optimized not only for quenching but also for the brightness of the open form might find application in nucleic acid assays with PCR avoiding detection schemes.