Detection and identification of genetic material via single-molecule conductance

Yuanhui Li, Juan M. Artés, Busra Demir, Sumeyye Gokce, Hashem M. Mohammad, Mashari Alangari, M. P. Anantram, Ersin Emre Oren & Joshua Hihath
Nature Nanotechnology


The ongoing discoveries of RNA modalities (for example, non-coding, micro and enhancer) have resulted in an increased desire for detecting, sequencing and identifying RNA segments for applications in food safety, water and environmental protection, plant and animal pathology, clinical diagnosis and research, and bio-security. Here, we demonstrate that single-molecule conductance techniques can be used to extract biologically relevant information from short RNA oligonucleotides, that these measurements are sensitive to attomolar target concentrations, that they are capable of being multiplexed, and that they can detect targets of interest in the presence of other, possibly interfering, RNA sequences. We also demonstrate that the charge transport properties of RNA:DNA hybrids are sensitive to single-nucleotide polymorphisms, thus enabling differentiation between specific serotypes of Escherichia coli. Using a combination of spectroscopic and computational approaches, we determine that the conductance sensitivity primarily arises from the effects that the mutations have on the conformational structure of the molecules, rather than from the direct chemical substitutions. We believe that this approach can be further developed to make an electrically based sensor for diagnostic purposes.

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