Entrapment of Fluorescent Signaling DNA Aptamers in Sol−Gel-Derived Silica
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We report on the first successful immobilization of a DNA aptamer, in particular, a fluorescence-signaling DNA aptamer, within a sol-gel-derived matrix. The specific aptamer examined in this study undergoes a structural switch in the presence of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to release a dabcyl-labeled nucleotide strand (QDNA), which in turn relieves the quenching of a fluorescein label that is also present in the aptamer structure. It was demonstrated that aptamers containing a complementary QDNA strand along with either a short complimentary strand bearing fluorescein (tripartite structure) or a directly bound fluorescein moiety (bipartite structure) remained intact upon entrapment within biocompatible sol-gel derived materials and retained binding activity, structure-switching capabilities, and fluorescence signal generation that was selective and sensitive to ATP concentration. Studies were undertaken to evaluate the properties of the immobilized aptamers that were either in their native state or bound to streptavidin using a terminal biotin group on the aptamer, including response time, accessibility, and leaching. Furthermore, signaling abilities were optimized through evaluation of different QDNA constructs. These studies indicated that the aptamers remained in a state that was similar to solution, with moderate leaching, only minor decreases in accessibility to ATP, and an expected reduction in response time due to diffusional barriers to mass transport of the analyte through the silica matrix. Entrapment of the aptamer also resulted in protection of the DNA against degradation from nucleases, improving the potential for use of the aptamer for in vivo sensing. This work demonstrates that sol-gel-derived materials can be used to successfully immobilize and protect DNA-based biorecognition elements and, in particular, DNA aptamers, opening new possibilities for the development of DNA aptamer-based devices, such as affinity columns, microarrays, and fiber-optic sensors.
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