Aptamers are oligonucleotides that can bind to various non-nucleic acid targets, ranging from proteins to small molecules, with a specificity and an affinity comparable with those of antibodies. Most aptamer-based detection strategies require modification on the aptamer, which could lead to a significant loss in its affinity and specificity to the target. Here, we report a generic strategy to design aptamer-based optical probes. An unmodified aptamer specific to the target and a fluorogenic competitor complementary to the aptamer are used for target recognition and signal generation, respectively. The competitor is a hairpin oligonucleotide with a fluorophore attached on one end and a quencher attached on the other. When no target is present, the competitor binds to the aptamer. However, when the target is introduced, the competitor will be displaced from the aptamer by the target, thus resulting in a target-specific decrease in fluorescence signal. Successful application of this strategy to different types of targets (small molecules and proteins) and different types of aptamers (DNA and RNA) has been demonstrated. Furthermore, a thermodynamics-based prediction model was established to further rationalize the optimization process. Because of its rapidness and simplicity, this aptamer-based detection strategy holds great promise in high-throughput applications.
- Molecular beacons
- Optical detection
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medical Laboratory Technology
- Computer Science Applications