Improving the specificity of nucleic acid detection with endonuclease-actuated degradation

Commun Biol. 2022 Mar 31;5(1):290. doi: 10.1038/s42003-022-03242-x.


Nucleic acid detection is essential for numerous biomedical applications, but often requires complex protocols and/or suffers false-positive readouts. Here, we describe SENTINEL, an approach that combines isothermal amplification with a sequence-specific degradation method to detect nucleic acids with high sensitivity and sequence-specificity. Target single-stranded RNA or double-stranded DNA molecules are amplified by loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) and subsequently degraded by the combined action of lambda exonuclease and a sequence-specific DNA endonuclease (e.g., Cas9). By combining the sensitivity of LAMP with the precision of DNA endonucleases, the protocol achieves attomolar limits of detection while differentiating between sequences that differ by only one or two base pairs. The protocol requires less than an hour to complete using a 65 °C heat block and fluorometer, and detects SARS-CoV-2 virus particles in human saliva and nasopharyngeal swabs with high sensitivity.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • DNA
  • Endonucleases
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques* / methods
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques* / methods
  • Nucleic Acids* / isolation & purification
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics


  • Nucleic Acids
  • DNA
  • Endonucleases

Supplementary concepts

  • LAMP assay