Duplex-Specific Nuclease-Amplified Detection of MicroRNA Using Compact Quantum Dot–DNA Conjugates

Wang, Ye and Howes, Philip D and Kim, Eunjung and Spicer, Christopher D and Thomas, Michael R and Lin, Yiyang and Crowder, Spencer W and Pence, Isaac J and Stevens, Molly M
ACS applied materials & interfaces, 10(34): 28290-28300, 2018

Advances in nanotechnology have provided new opportunities for the design of next-generation nucleic acid biosensors and diagnostics. Indeed, combining advances in functional nanoparticles, DNA nanotechnology, and nuclease-enzyme-based amplification can give rise to new assays with advantageous properties. In this work, we developed a microRNA (miRNA) assay using bright fluorescent quantum dots (QDs), simple DNA probes, and the enzyme duplex-specific nuclease. We employed an isothermal target-recycling mechanism, where a single miRNA target triggers the cleavage of many DNA signal probes. The incorporation of DNA-functionalized QDs enabled a quantitative fluorescent readout, mediated by Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based interaction with the DNA signal probes. Our approach splits the reaction in two, performing the enzyme-mediated amplification and QD-based detection steps separately such that each reaction could be optimized for performance of the active components. Target recycling gave ca. 3 orders of magnitude amplification, yielding highly sensitive detection with a limit of 42 fM (or 1.2 amol) of miR-148, with excellent selectivity versus mismatched sequences and other miRNAs. Furthermore, we used an alternative target (miR-21) and FRET pair for direct and absolute quantification of miR-21 in RNA extracts from human cancer and normal cell lines.