Structure-switching signaling aptamers

J Am Chem Soc. 2003 Apr 23;125(16):4771-8. doi: 10.1021/ja028962o.


Aptamers are single-stranded nucleic acids with defined tertiary structures for selective binding to target molecules. Aptamers are also able to bind a complementary DNA sequence to form a duplex structure. In this report, we describe a strategy for designing aptamer-based fluorescent reporters that function by switching structures from DNA/DNA duplex to DNA/target complex. The duplex is formed between a fluorophore-labeled DNA aptamer and a small oligonucleotide modified with a quenching moiety (denoted QDNA). When the target is absent, the aptamer binds to QDNA, bringing the fluorophore and the quencher into close proximity for maximum fluorescence quenching. When the target is introduced, the aptamer prefers to form the aptamer-target complex. The switch of the binding partners for the aptamer occurs in conjunction with the generation of a strong fluorescence signal owing to the dissociation of QDNA. Herein, we report on the preparation of several structure-switching reporters from two existing DNA aptamers. Our design strategy is easy to generalize for any aptamer without prior knowledge of its secondary or tertiary structure, and should be suited for the development of aptamer-based reporters for real-time sensing applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / analysis
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Cold Temperature
  • DNA / chemical synthesis
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • DNA, Complementary / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Oligonucleotides / chemical synthesis
  • Oligonucleotides / chemistry*
  • Oligonucleotides / genetics
  • Oligonucleotides / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / methods
  • Thrombin / analysis
  • Thrombin / genetics


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • DNA
  • Thrombin