Building a nucleic acid nanostructure with DNA-epitope conjugates for a versatile electrochemical protein detection platform

24 February 2023, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The recent surge of effort in nucleic acid-based electrochemical (EC) sensors has been fruitful, and some have even shown real-time quantification of drugs in the blood of living animals. Yet there remains a need for more generalizable EC platforms for the detection of multiple classes of clinically relevant targets. Our group has recently reported a nucleic acid nanostructure that permits simple, economical, and generalizable EC readout of a wide range of analytes (small molecules, peptides, large proteins, or antibodies). The DNA nanostructure is built through on-electrode enzymatic ligation of three oligonucleotides for attachment, binding, and signaling. However, the signaling mechanism predominantly relies on tethered diffusion of methylene blue at the electrode surface, limiting the detection of larger proteins that have no readily available small molecule binding partners. In this study, we adapted the nanostructure sensor to quantify larger proteins in a more generic manner, through conjugating the proteins minimized antibody-binding epitope to the central DNA strand of the nanostructure (DNA-peptide conjugate). This concept was verified using creatine kinase (CK-MM), an important biomarker of muscle damage, myocardial infarction, overexertion/rhabdomyolysis, or neuromuscular disorders where clinical outcomes could be improved with rapid sensing. DNA-epitope conjugates permitted a competitive immunoassay protocol at the electrode surface for quantifying CK protein. Square-wave voltammetry (SWV) signal suppression was proportional to the amount of surface-bound antibody with a limit of detection (LOD) of 5 nM and a response time as low as 3 minutes, and displacement of antibody by native CK-MM protein analyte could also be assayed. CK was quantified from the LOD of 14 nM up to 100 nM, overlapping well with the normal (non-elevated) human clinical range of 3 37 nM, and the sensor response was validated in 98% human serum. While a need for improved DNA-epitope conjugate purification was identified, overall this approach not only allows the detection of a generic protein- or peptide-binding antibody, but it also should facilitate future quantitative EC readout of various clinically relevant protein analytes that were previously inaccessible to EC techniques.


electrochemical sensors
Clinically relevant molecule quantification
Proteins detection
antibody quantification

Supplementary materials

Supporting information for : Building a nucleic acid nanostructure with DNA-epitope conjugates for a versatile electrochemical protein detection platform
Supporting information contents Page S-2: List of DNA sequences used in this work, Table S-1. Page S-2: Amino acid sequence used in this work, Table S-2. Page S-2: Additional methods for peptide-oligo conjugation. Page S-3: Preparation of electrodes and custom electrochemical cells, Figure S-1. Page S-3: Titration of nanostructure with anti-CK-MM antibody, Figure S-2. Page S-4: Temperature controlling system used to precisely control the temperature in electrochemical cells, Figure S-3.

Supplementary weblinks


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