A core–brush 3D DNA nanostructure: the next generation of DNA nanomachine for ultrasensitive sensing and imaging of intracellular microRNA with rapid kinetics†
A highly loaded and integrated core–brush three-dimensional (3D) DNA nanostructure is constructed by programmatically assembling a locked DNA walking arm (DA) and hairpin substrate (HS) into a repetitive array along a well-designed DNA track generated by rolling circle amplification (RCA) and is applied as a 3D DNA nanomachine for rapid and sensitive intracellular microRNA (miRNA) imaging and sensing. Impressively, the homogeneous distribution of the DA and HS at a ratio of 1 : 3 on the DNA track provides a specific walking range for the DA to avoid invalid and random self-walking and notably improve the executive ability of the core–brush 3D DNA nanomachine, which easily solves the major technical challenges of traditional Au-based 3D DNA nanomachines: low loading capacity and low executive efficiency. As a proof of concept, the interaction of miRNA with the 3D DNA nanomachine could initiate the autonomous and progressive operation of the DA to cleave the HS for ultrasensitive ECL detection of target miRNA-21 with a detection limit as low as 3.57 aM and rapid imaging in living cells within 15 min. Therefore, the proposed core–brush 3D DNA nanomachine could not only provide convincing evidence for sensitive detection and rapid visual imaging of biomarkers with tiny change, but also assist researchers in investigating the formation mechanism of tumors, improving their recovery rates and reducing correlative complications. This strategy might enrich the method to design a new generation of 3D DNA nanomachine and promote the development of clinical diagnosis, targeted therapy and prognosis monitoring.