Multiplexed Detection of Attomoles of Nucleic Acids Using Fluorescent Nanoparticle Counting Platform

The sensitive multiplexed detection of nucleic acids in a single sample by a simple manner is of pivotal importance for the diagnosis and therapy of human diseases. Herein, we constructed an automatic fluorescent nanoparticle (FNP) counting platform with a common fluorescence microscopic imaging setup for nonamplification multiplexed detection of attomoles of nucleic acids. Taking the advantages of the highly bright, multicolor emitting FNPs and magnetic separation, the platform enables sensitive multiplexed detection without the need for extra fluorescent labels. Quantification for multiplex DNAs, multiplex microRNAs (miRNA), as well as a DNA and miRNA mixture was achieved with a similar dynamic range, a limit of detection down to 5 amol (5 μL detection volume), and a 81–115% spike recovery from different biological sample matrices. In particular, the sensitivity for multiplex miRNA is by far among the highest without using amplification or the lock nucleic acid hybridization enhancement strategy. Results regarding miRNA-141 from four different cell lines were agreeable with those of the quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Simultaneous detection of miRNA-141 and miRNA-21 in four different cell lines yielded consistent results with publications, indicating the potential for monitoring multiplex miRNA expression associated with the collaborative regulation of important cellular events. This work expands the rule set of multiplex nucleic acid detection strategies and shows promising potential application in clinical diagnosis.