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A photocleavable and mass spectrometric DNA-peptide probe enables fast and specific enzyme-free detection of microRNA

Kuang, Yuqiong, Liu, Liang, Wang, Zhongcheng, Chen, Yun
Talanta 2020 v.211 pp. 120726
DNA, breast neoplasms, humans, liquid chromatography, microRNA, nucleic acid hybridization, nucleotide sequences, peptides, photolysis, tandem mass spectrometry, therapeutics
MiRNAs are known to be involved in a series of diseases, including breast cancer, and they have the potential to serve as diagnostic/prognostic markers and therapeutic targets. A prerequisite for miRNAs to be applied in clinical practice is the quantitative profiling of their expression. However, the majority of current assays used in miRNA detection are highly enzyme-dependent. In this study, a novel enzyme-free assay was developed that relies on stacking hybridization and a photocleavable DNA-PL-peptide probe, which contains a reporter peptide (AVLGVDPFR), a photocleavable o-nitrobenzyl derivative linker and a detection DNA sequence that is complementary to a part of the target miRNA (e.g., miR-21, miR-125a or miR-200c). Stacking hybridization enabled the DNA-PL-peptide probe to capture DNA in a contiguous tandem arrangement to generate a long DNA single strand complementary to the target miRNA. Then, photolysis was initiated to rapidly release the reporter peptide, and the reporter peptide was ultimately monitored by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). In this experiment, the parameters linked with photorelease, binding, conjugation and hybridization were characterized. The results showed that the assay time was significantly shortened, and the detection specificity was improved. After validation of the assay, the target miRNA level was determined in human breast cells and tissue samples. The results demonstrated that photocleavable materials coupled with mass spectrometric detection have great potential in clinical practice.