We report here an optical approach that enables highly selective and colorimetric single-base mismatch detection without the need of target modification, precise temperature control or stringent washes. The method is based on the finding that nucleoside monophosphates (dNMPs), which are digested elements of DNA, can better stabilize unmodified gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) than single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) and double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) with the same base-composition and concentration. The method combines the exceptional mismatch discrimination capability of the structure-selective nucleases with the attractive optical property of AuNPs. Taking S1 nuclease as one example, the perfectly matched 16-base synthetic DNA target was distinctively differentiated from those with single-base mutation located at any position of the 16-base synthetic target. Single-base mutations present in targets with varied length up to 80-base, located either in the middle or near to the end of the targets, were all effectively detected. In order to prove that the method can be potentially used for real clinic samples, the single-base mismatch detections with two HBV genomic DNA samples were conducted. To further prove the generality of this method and potentially overcome the limitation on the detectable lengths of the targets of the S1 nuclease-based method, we also demonstrated the use of a duplex-specific nuclease (DSN) for color reversed single-base mismatch detection. The main limitation of the demonstrated methods is that it is limited to detect mutations in purified ssDNA targets. However, the method coupled with various convenient ssDNA generation and purification techniques, has the potential to be used for the future development of detector-free testing kits in single nucleotide polymorphism screenings for disease diagnostics and treatments.
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