A Unified Sensor Architecture for Isothermal Detection of Double-Stranded DNA, Oligonucleotides, and Small Molecules (abstract)

Pathogen detection is an important problem in many areas of medicine and agriculture, which can involve genomic or transcriptomic signatures or small-molecule metabolites. We report a unified, DNA-based sensor architecture capable of isothermal detection of double-stranded DNA targets, single-stranded oligonucleotides, and small molecules. Each sensor contains independent target detection and reporter modules, enabling rapid design. We detected gene variants on plasmids by using a straightforward isothermal denaturation protocol. The sensors were highly specific, even with a randomized DNA background. We achieved a limit of detection of ~15 pM for single-stranded targets and ~5 nM for targets on denatured plasmids. By incorporating a blocked aptamer sequence, we also detected small molecules using the same sensor architecture. This work provides a starting point for multiplexed detection of multi-strain pathogens, and disease states caused by genetic variants (e.g., sickle cell anemia).