Nucleic Acid Sensing via Electrochemical Oligonucleotide-Templated Reactions

Philip Gillespie, Robert B. Channon, Xiaotong Meng, Md Nazmul Islam, Sylvain Ladame, Danny O'Hare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Short single-stranded nucleic acids as found in a variety of bodily fluids have recently emerged as minimally invasive biomarkers for a broad range of pathologies, most notably cancer. Because of their small size, low natural abundance and high sequence homology between family members they are challenging to detect using standard technologies suitable for use at the point-of-care. Herein we report the design, engineering and testing of a novel sensing strategy: electrochemically active molecular probes based on peptide nucleic acid (PNA) scaffolds for the detection of single-stranded oligonucleotides, in particular microRNAs (or miRs). As a proof-of-principle, a wide range of probes were designed and tested to detect miR-141, a known diagnostic biomarker for prostate cancer. Optimal quantitative sensing of miR-141 was achieved via the first example of electrochemical oligonucleotide-templated reaction (EOTR), whereby two PNA probes - functionalized with an aniline and a 1,4-catechol respectively - preferentially react with each other upon simultaneous hybridization to the same RNA target strand, serving here as a template. Quantitative, electrochemical detection of the product of this bio-orthogonal reaction showed direct correlation between the amount of adduct formed and miR-141 concentration. Coupling the specificity of OTR with the speed and sensitivity of electrochemical sensing delivers EOTRs as a promising new technique for fast, low-cost, quantitative and sequence-specific detection of short nucleic acids from liquid biopsies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
Early online date15 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Dec 2020


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