Synthetic Protein-to-DNA Input Exchange for Protease Activity Detection Using CRISPR-Cas12a

29 November 2023, Version 2
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


We present a novel activity-based detection strategy for matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2), a critical cancer protease biomarker, leveraging a mechanism responsive to the proteolytic activity of MMP2 and its integration with CRISPR-Cas12a-assisted signal amplification. We designed a chemical translator comprising two functional units — a peptide and a peptide nucleic acid (PNA) — fused together. The peptide presents the substrate of MMP2, while the PNA serves as a nucleic acid output for subsequent processing. This chemical translator was immobilized on micrometric magnetic beads as a physical support for an activity-based assay. We incorporated into our design a single-stranded DNA partially hybridized with the PNA sequence and bearing a region complementary to the RNA guide of CRISPR-Cas12a. The target-induced nuclease activity of Cas12a results in the degradation of FRET-labeled DNA reporters and amplified fluorescence signal, enabling detection of MMP2 in the low picomolar range, showing a limit of detection of 72 pg/mL. This study provides new design principles for a broader applicability of CRISPR-Cas-based biosensing.


peptide nucleic acid
activity-based diagnostics


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