Detection of DNA Targets Hybridized to Solid Surfaces Using Optical Images of Liquid Crystals

In this paper, we report a method of detecting DNA targets hybridized to a solid surface by using liquid crystals (LC). The detection principle is based on different interference colors of LC supported on surfaces decorated with single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) or double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). However, the contrast between the ssDNA and dsDNA is not obvious, unless DNA-streptavidin complexes are introduced to the dsDNA to increase the surface mass density. Two different approaches of introducing streptavidin to the system are studied and compared. We find that by premixing the biotin-labeled DNA targets with streptavidin prior to the DNA hybridization, branched-streptavidin complexes are formed and clear LC signal can be observed. This LC-based DNA detection principle represents an important step toward the development of a simple, instrument- and fluorophore-free DNA detection method.