Exonuclease III-Assisted Upconversion Resonance Energy Transfer in a Wash-Free Suspension DNA Assay

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Analytical Chemistry, 2018, 90 (1), pp. 663 - 668
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© 2017 American Chemical Society. Sensitivity is the key in optical detection of low-abundant analytes, such as circulating RNA or DNA. The enzyme Exonuclease III (Exo III) is a useful tool in this regard; its ability to recycle target DNA molecules results in markedly improved detection sensitivity. Lower limits of detection may be further achieved if the detection background of autofluorescence can be removed. Here we report an ultrasensitive and specific method to quantify trace amounts of DNA analytes in a wash-free suspension assay. In the presence of target DNA, the Exo III recycles the target DNA by selectively digesting the dye-tagged sequence-matched probe DNA strand only, so that the amount of free dye removed from the probe DNA is proportional to the number of target DNAs. Remaining intact probe DNAs are then bound onto upconversion nanoparticles (energy donor), which allows for upconversion luminescence resonance energy transfer (LRET) that can be used to quantify the difference between the free dye and tagged dye (energy acceptor). This scheme simply avoids both autofluorescence under infrared excitation and many tedious washing steps, as the free dye molecules are physically located away from the nanoparticle surface, and as such they remain "dark" in suspension. Compared to alternative approaches requiring enzyme-assisted amplification on the nanoparticle surface, introduction of probe DNAs onto nanoparticles only after DNA hybridization and signal amplification steps effectively avoids steric hindrance. Via this approach, we have achieved a detection limit of 15 pM in LRET assays of human immunodeficiency viral DNA.
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