A digital detection strategy based on a portable personal glucometer (PGM) was developed for the simple, rapid, and sensitive detection of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA, involving the release of glucose-loaded nanoliposomes due to coupling-site-specific cleavage by the endonuclease BamHI. The glucose-loaded nanoliposomes were synthesized using a reversed-phase evaporation method and provided an amplified signal at the PGM in the presence of HCV RNA. Initially, a 21-mer oligonucleotide complementary to HCV RNA was covalently conjugated to a magnetic bead through the amino group at the 5' end of the oligonucleotide, and then bound to a glucose-loaded liposome by typical carbodiimide coupling at its 3' end. In the presence of the target HCV RNA, the target hybridized with the oligonucleotide to form double-stranded DNA. The symmetrical duplex sequence 5'-GGATCC-3' between guanines was then catalytically cleaved by BamHI, which detached the glucose-loaded liposome from the magnetic bead. Following magnetic separation of the bead, the detached glucose-loaded liposome was lysed using Triton X-100 to release the glucose molecules within it, which were then detected as an amplified signal at the digital PGM. Under optimal conditions, the PGM signal increased with increasing HCV RNA, and displayed a strongly linear dependence on the level of HCV RNA for concentrations ranging from 10 pM to 1.0 μM. The detection limit (LOD) of the system was 1.9 pM. Good reproducibility and favorable specificity were achieved in the analysis of the target HCV RNA. Human serum samples containing HCV RNA were analyzed using this strategy, and the developed sensing platform was observed to yield satisfactory results based on a comparison with the corresponding results from a Cobas® Amplicor HCV Test Analyzer. Graphical abstract A digital detection strategy utilizing a personal glucometer was developed for the detection of hepatitis C virus RNA. The strategy involved the use of the endonuclease BamHI along with a 21-mer oligonucleotide conjugated to both a magnetic bead and a glucose-loaded nanoliposome. Hybridization of the nucleotide with the target RNA triggered the coupling-site-specific cleavage of the duplex by BamHI, leading to the release of the glucose-loaded nanoliposome. Following separation of the magnetic bead, the free nanoliposome was dissolved, liberating the glucose molecules within it, which in turn were detected as an amplified signal by the glucometer.
Keywords: BamHI endonuclease; Digital detection strategy; Glucose-loaded liposome; Hepatitis C virus RNA; Personal glucometer.