DNAzymes: from creation in vitro to application in vivo

Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2004 Aug;5(4):321-36. doi: 10.2174/1389201043376751.


DNAzymes, also known as deoxyribozymes or DNA enzymes, refer to single-stranded DNA molecules with catalytic capabilities. DNAzymes are generated de novo by in vitro selection--a powerful and yet simple technique that has been routinely used to isolate extremely rare DNA or RNA sequences with a function of interest (e.g. ligand-binding or catalysis) from an extraordinarily large population of single-stranded DNA or RNA molecules. Since the report of the first DNAzyme nearly ten years ago, hundreds of DNA sequences have been isolated in many research laboratories around the world to facilitate many chemical transformations of biological importance. In recent years, considerable efforts have been undertaken to assess a variety of DNAzymes for innovation-driven applications ranging from biosensing to gene regulation. This article provides a review on several key aspects of DNAzyme-related research. We will first review in vitro selection techniques used for DNAzyme creation as well as some DNAzymes created for a few representative chemical transformations. We will then discuss recent progresses in studying and developing DNAzymes as reporter molecules for detection-oriented applications, and as therapeutic agents to regulate gene expression at the RNA level. Future outlook on efforts aimed to bring the wonder of catalytic DNA from laboratory curiosity to real world application are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biosensing Techniques / instrumentation
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • DNA, Catalytic / chemistry
  • DNA, Catalytic / genetics*
  • DNA, Catalytic / metabolism*
  • DNA, Catalytic / therapeutic use
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Gene Targeting / methods*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans


  • DNA, Catalytic