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Analyte-Driven Switching of DNA Charge Transport: De Novo Creation of Electronic Sensors for an Early Lung Cancer Biomarker

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journal contribution
posted on 22.08.2012, 00:00 by Jason M. Thomas, Banani Chakraborty, Dipankar Sen, Hua-Zhong Yu
A general approach is described for the de novo design and construction of aptamer-based electrochemical biosensors, for potentially any analyte of interest (ranging from small ligands to biological macromolecules). As a demonstration of the approach, we report the rapid development of a made-to-order electronic sensor for a newly reported early biomarker for lung cancer (CTAP III/NAP2). The steps include the in vitro selection and characterization of DNA aptamer sequences, design and biochemical testing of wholly DNA sensor constructs, and translation to a functional electrode-bound sensor format. The working principle of this distinct class of electronic biosensors is the enhancement of DNA-mediated charge transport in response to analyte binding. We first verify such analyte-responsive charge transport switching in solution, using biochemical methods; successful sensor variants were then immobilized on gold electrodes. We show that using these sensor-modified electrodes, CTAP III/NAP2 can be detected with both high specificity and sensitivity (Kd ∼1 nM) through a direct electrochemical reading. To investigate the underlying basis of analyte binding-induced conductivity switching, we carried out Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) experiments. The FRET data establish that analyte binding-induced conductivity switching in these sensors results from very subtle structural/conformational changes, rather than large scale, global folding events. The implications of this finding are discussed with respect to possible charge transport switching mechanisms in electrode-bound sensors. Overall, the approach we describe here represents a unique design principle for aptamer-based electrochemical sensors; its application should enable rapid, on-demand access to a class of portable biosensors that offer robust, inexpensive, and operationally simplified alternatives to conventional antibody-based immunoassays.