Molecularly resolved, label-free nucleic acid sensing at solid–liquid interface using non-ionic DNA analogues †
Nucleic acid-based biosensors, where the capture probe is a nucleic acid, e.g., DNA or its synthetic analogue xeno nucleic acid (XNA), offer interesting ways of eliciting clinically relevant information from hybridization/dehybridization signals. In this respect, the application of XNA probes is attractive since the drawbacks of DNA probes might be overcome. Within the XNA probe repertoire, peptide nucleic acid (PNA) and morpholino (MO) are promising since their backbones are non-ionic. Therefore, in the absence of electrostatic charge repulsion between the capture probe and the target nucleic acid, a stable duplex can be formed. In addition, these are nuclease-resistant probes. Herein, we have tested the molecularly resolved nucleic acid sensing capacity of PNA and MO capture probes using a fluorescent label-free single molecule force spectroscopy approach. As far as single nucleobase mismatch discrimination is concerned, both PNA and MO performed better than DNA, while the performance of the MO probe was the best. We propose that the conformationally more rigid backbone of MO, compared to the conformationally flexible PNA, is an advantage for MO, since the probe orientation can be made more upright on the surface and therefore MO can be more effectively accessed by the target sequences. The performance of the XNA probes has been compared to that of the DNA probe, using fixed nucleobase sequences, so that the effect of backbone variation could be investigated. To our knowledge, this is the first report on molecularly resolved nucleic acid sensing by non-ionic capture probes, here, MO and PNA.