Cascade Amplification-Mediated In Situ Hot-Spot Assembly for MicroRNA Detection and Molecular Logic Gate Operations

Anal Chem. 2018 Apr 3;90(7):4544-4551. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.7b04930. Epub 2018 Mar 23.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play important roles in many biological processes and are associated with various diseases, especially cancers. Combination of technological developments such as nanomaterials, functional enzyme-mediated reactions, and DNA nanotechnology holds great potential for high-performance detection of miRNAs in molecular diagnostic systems. In this work, we have fabricated a cascade signal amplification platform through integrating duplex-specific nuclease (DSN)-assisted target recycling with catalytic hairpin assembly (CHA) reaction for the detection of microRNA-141 (miR-141). The target recycling process driven by DSN results in highly amplified translation of target miRNA to single-stranded connector DNA fragments. The CHA reaction is further initiated by connector DNAs using hairpin-modified gold nanoparticles (HP-AuNPs) as the sensing unit, leading to the formation of AuNP network architecture on the electrode for electrochemical and photoelectrochemical detection of miR-141 in signal-on and signal-off modes, respectively. The developed electrochemical biosensor exhibits a detection limit down to 25.1 aM miR-141 (60 copies in 4 μL sample) and excellent selectivity to discriminate a single base-mismatched sequence and other miRNAs. This assay is also applied to the determination of miR-141 in total RNAs extracted from human breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231), confirming the applicability of this method for absolute quantification of specific miRNAs in real-world samples. Furthermore, two-input AND and INHIBIT (INH) logic gates are constructed to detect miRNAs. In particular, the AND gate achieves cell-specific gate activation based on expression profiles of miR-141 and microRNA-21 (miR-21). Therefore, our proposed cascade amplification platform has great potential applications in miRNA-related clinical diagnostics and biochemical research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Computers, Molecular*
  • Electrochemical Techniques*
  • Electrodes
  • Gold / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Logic
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • MicroRNAs / analysis*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques*


  • MIRN141 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Gold