Aptamer-modified nanomaterials provide a simple, yet powerful sensing platform when combined with resistive pulse sensing technologies. Aptamers adopt a more stable tertiary structure in the presence of a target analyte, which results in a change in charge density and velocity of the carrier particle. In practice the tertiary structure is specific for each aptamer and target, and the strength of the signal varies with different applications and experimental conditions. Resistive pulse sensors (RPS) have single particle resolution, allowing for the detailed characterization of the sample. Measuring the velocity of aptamer-modified nanomaterials as they traverse the RPS provides information on their charge state and densities. To help understand how the aptamer structure and charge density effects the sensitivity of aptamer-RPS assays, here we study two metal binding aptamers. This creates a sensor for mercury and lead ions that is capable of being run in a range of electrolyte concentrations, equivalent to river to seawater conditions. The observed results are in excellent agreement with our proposed model. Building on this we combine two aptamers together in an attempt to form a dual sensing strand of DNA for the simultaneous detection of two metal ions. We show experimental and theoretical responses for the aptamer which creates layers of differing charge densities around the nanomaterial. The density and diameter of these zones effects both the viability and sensitivity of the assay. While this approach allows the interrogation of the DNA structure, the data also highlight the limitations and considerations for future assays.
Mayne, Laura, Chih-Yuan Lin, Steven DR Christie, Zuzanna S. Siwy, and Mark Platt. "The Design and Characterisation of Multifunctional Aptamer Nanopore Sensors." ACS nano (2018).
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