A serological aptamer-assisted proximity ligation assay for COVID-19 diagnosis and seeking neutralizing aptamers†
Rapid and accurate diagnosis of COVID-19 plays an essential role in the current epidemic prevention and control. Despite the promise of nucleic acid and antibody tests, there is still a great challenge to reduce the misdiagnosis, especially for asymptomatic individuals. Here we report a generalizable method for highly specific and ultrasensitive detection of serum COVID-19-associated antigens based on an aptamer-assisted proximity ligation assay. The sensor is based on binding two aptamer probes to the same protein target that brings the ligation DNA region into close proximity, thereby initiating ligation-dependent qPCR amplification. Using this system, serum nucleocapsid protein has been detected quantitatively by converting protein recognition into a detectable qPCR signal using a simple, homogeneous and fast detection workflow in ∼2 hours. In addition, this system has also been transformed into a universal platform for measuring specific interactions between spike S1 and its receptor ACE2, and more importantly demonstrated the feasibility for screening and investigation of potential neutralizing aptamers. Since in vitro selection can obtain aptamers selective for many COVID-19-associated antigens, the method demonstrated here will serve as an important tool for the diagnosis and therapeutics of COVID-19.