Universal Aptameric System for Highly Sensitive Detection of Protein Based on Structure-Switching-Triggered Rolling Circle Amplification

A universal approach is proposed in this study for the development of an aptameric assay system for proteins based on aptamer structure-switching-triggered ligation-rolling circle amplification (L-RCA) upon target binding. The strategy chiefly depends on the competition for binding the aptamer probe between target protein and a complementary single-stranded DNA (CDNA) that can induce the circularization of the padlock probe. Introduction of target protein into the assay system inhibits the hybridization of the CDNA with the aptamer probe because of the formation of the target/aptamer duplex. The free CDNA can only hybridize with the padlock probe. With the assistance of DNA ligase, the padlock probe is circularized, and the subsequent RCA process can be accomplished by Phi 29 DNA polymerase. Each RCA product containing thousands of repeated sequences might hybridize with a large number of molecular beacons (detection probes), resulting in an enhanced fluorescence signal. In contrast, in the absence of target protein, no obvious change in the fluorescence intensity of the detection probe is observed. This signaling mode for target recognition and transduction events is based on the combination of aptamer recognition elements and L-RCA technology with high specificity and sensitivity. The proposed assay system not only exhibits excellent analytical characteristics (e.g., the detection limit on attomolar scale and a linear dynamic range of more than 3 orders of magnitude) but also possesses significant advantages over existing aptameric assays. The proposed strategy is universal since the sequences of aptamer probe, CDNA, and padlock probe could be easily designed to be compatible with the L-RCA based detection of other proteins without other conditions.