Enzyme-induced Aggregation of Plasmonic Nanoparticles for the Development of Label-free and Ultrasensitive Detection of Bacterial DNA

Claire McVey, Zhifan Zhang, Fumin Huang, Christopher Elliott, Cuong Cao

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Sensitive detection of pathogens is critical to ensure the safety of food supplies and to prevent bacterial disease infection and outbreak at the first onset. While conventional techniques such as cell culture, ELISA, PCR, etc. have been used as the predominant detection workhorses, they are however limited by either time-consuming procedure, complicated sample pre-treatment, expensive analysis and operation, or inability to be implemented at point-of-care testing. Here, we present our recently developed assay exploiting enzyme-induced aggregation of plasmonic gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) for label-free and ultrasensitive detection of bacterial DNA. In the experiments, AuNPs are first functionalized with specific, single-stranded RNA probes so that they exhibit high stability in solution even under high electrolytic condition thus exhibiting red color. When bacterial DNA is present in a sample, a DNA-RNA heteroduplex will be formed and subsequently prone to the RNase H cleavage on the RNA probe, allowing the DNA to liberate and hybridize with another RNA strand. This continuously happens until all of the RNA strands are cleaved, leaving the nanoparticles ‘unprotected’. The addition of NaCl will cause the ‘unprotected’ nanoparticles to aggregate, initiating a colour change from red to blue. The reaction is performed in a multi-well plate format, and the distinct colour signal can be discriminated by naked eye or simple optical spectroscopy. As a result, bacterial DNA as low as pM could be unambiguously detected, suggesting that the enzyme-induced aggregation of AuNPs assay is very easy to perform and sensitive, it will significantly benefit to development of fast and ultrasensitive methods that can be used for disease detection and diagnosis.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2016
Event26th Anniversary World Congress on Biosensors: Biosensors 2016 - Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 25 May 201527 May 2016


Conference26th Anniversary World Congress on Biosensors
Internet address


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