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Anal Chem. 2003 Dec 1;75(23):6666-72.

Improving fluorescent DNAzyme biosensors by combining inter- and intramolecular quenchers.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.


A previously reported DNAzyme-based biosensor for Pb(2+) has shown high sensitivity and selectivity at 4 degrees C. In the system, the substrate and the enzyme strand of the DNAzyme are labeled with a fluorophore and a quencher, respectively. In the presence of Pb(2+), the substrate strand is cleaved by the enzyme strand, and the release of the cleaved fragment results in significant fluorescence increase. However, the performance of the sensor decreases considerably if the temperature is raised to room temperature because of high background fluorescence. A careful analysis of the sensor system, including measurement of the melting curve and fluorescence resonance energy-transfer (FRET) study of the free substrate, suggests that a fraction of the fluorophore-labeled substrate strand is dissociated from the enzyme strand, resulting in elevated background fluorescence signals at room temperature. To overcome this problem, we designed a new sensor system by introducing both inter- and intramolecular quenchers. The design was aided by the FRET study that showed the dissociated substrate maintained a random coil conformation with an end-to-end distance of approximately 39 A, which is much shorter than that of the fully extended DNA. With this new design, the background fluorescence was significantly suppressed, with 660% increase of fluorescence intensity as compared to 60% increase for the previous design. This suppression of background fluorescence signals was achieved without losing selectivity of the sensor. The new design makes it possible to use the sensor for practical applications in a wide temperature range. The design principle presented here should be applicable to other nucleic acid-based biosensors to decrease background fluorescence.

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