We designed an in vitro signal amplification circuit that takes a short RNA input that catalytically activates the Spinach RNA aptamer to produce a fluorescent output. The circuit consists of three RNA strands: an internally blocked Spinach aptamer, a fuel strand, and an input strand (catalyst), as well as the Spinach aptamer ligand 3,5-difluoro-4-hydroxylbenzylidene imidazolinone (DFHBI). The input strand initially displaces the internal inhibitory strand to activate the fluorescent aptamer while exposing a toehold to which the fuel strand can bind to further displace and recycle the input strand. Under a favorable condition, one input strand was able to activate up to five molecules of the internally blocked Spinach aptamer in 185 min at 30 °C. The simple RNA circuit reported here serves as a model for catalytic activation of arbitrary RNA effectors by chemical triggers.
Keywords: RNA circuit; RNA engineering; Spinach aptamer; signal amplification.