Cooperative multicomponent self-assembly of nucleic acid structures for the activation of DNAzyme cascades: A paradigm for DNA sensors and aptasensors

Johann Elbaz, Michal Moshe, Bella Shlyahovsky, Itamar Willner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The activation of a DNAzyme cascade by the cooperative self-assembly of multicomponent nucleic acid structures is suggested as a method for the amplified sensing of DNA, or the specific substrates of aptamers. According to one configuration, the DNA analyte 1 is detected by two tailored nucleic acids 2 and 3 that form a multicomponent supramolecular structure with a ribonucleobase-containing quasi-circular DNA 4, but only upon the concomitant hybridization with 1. The resulting supramolecular nucleic acid structure includes the Mg2+-dependent DNAzyme that cleaves the ribonucleobase site of 4. The cleavage of the quasi-circular DNA 4 results in the fragmentation of the supramolecular structure and the release of two horseradish peroxidase (HRP) mimicking units that were incorporated in the blocked quasi-circular DNA 4. The HRP-mimicking DNAzyme catalyzed the oxidation of 2,2′-azino-bis(3- ethylbenzothiazoline)-6-sulfonic acid (ABTS2-) by H2O 2 to ABTS.-, and the product provided the colorimetric readout signal for the analyzed DNA. The method enabled the analysis of DNA with a detection limit of 1 × 10-12 M. Similarly, an analogous DNAzyme cascade was activated by the low-molecular-weight substrates, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or cocaine. This was induced by the self-assembly of nucleic acids that included fragments of the respective aptamers and the Mg 2+-dependent DNAzyme. Furthermore, nucleic acids consisting of fragments of the aptamers against ATP or cocaine and fragments of the HRP-mimicking DNAzyme self-assemble, in the presence of the respective substrates, to the active DNAzyme structure that catalyzes the oxidation of ABTS2- by H2O2 to form the colored product ABTS.-. The resulting product provided the readout signal for the recognition events. The cooperative interaction in the formation of the supramolecular nucleic acid assemblies and the activation of the DNAzymes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3411-3418
Number of pages8
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number14
StatePublished - 23 Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Aptamers
  • Biosensors
  • DNAzymes
  • Nanostructures
  • Self-assembly


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