The development of Subzymes demonstrates how the catalytic activity of DNAzymes can be controlled for detecting nucleic acids; however, Subzymes alone lack the sensitivity required to detect low target concentrations. To improve sensitivity, we developed a feedback system using a pair of cross-catalytic Subzymes. These were individually tethered to microparticles (MP) and separated by a porous membrane rendering them unable to interact. In the presence of a target, active PlexZymes®
cleave a first Subzyme, which separates a first DNAzyme from its MP, allowing the DNAzyme to migrate through the membrane, where it can cleave a second Subzyme. This releases a second DNAzyme which can now migrate through the membrane and cleave more of the first Subzyme, thus initiating a cross-catalytic cascade. Activated DNAzymes can additionally cleave fluorescent substrates, generating a signal, and thereby, indicating the presence of the target. The method detected 1 fM of DNA homologous to the ompA gene of Chlamydia trachomatis
within 30 min, demonstrating a 10,000-fold increase in sensitivity over PlexZyme detection alone. The Subzyme cascade is universal and can be triggered by any target by modifying the target sensing arms of the PlexZymes. Further, it is isothermal, protein-enzyme-free and shows great potential for rapid and affordable biomarker detection.
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