Single-tube one-step gel-based RT-RPA/PCR for highly sensitive molecular detection of HIV†
We developed a single-tube one-step gel-based reverse transcription-recombinase polymerase amplification (RT-RPA)/polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (termed “SOG RT-RPA/PCR”) to detect the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). To improve the assay sensitivity, the RNA template is pre-amplified by RT-RPA prior to PCR. To simplify the detection process and shorten the assay time, we embedded PCR reagents into agarose gel, constructing it to physically separate the reagents from the RT-RPA reaction solution in a single tube. Due to the thermodynamic properties of agarose, the RT-RPA reaction first occurs independently on top of the PCR gel at a low temperature (e.g., 39 °C) during the SOG RT-RPA/PCR assay. Then, the RPA amplicons directly serve as the template for the second PCR amplification reaction, which begins when the PCR agarose dissolves due to the elevated reaction temperature, eliminating the need for multiple manual operations and amplicon transfer. With our SOG RT-RPA/PCR assay, we could detect 6.3 copies of HIV RNA per test, which is a 10-fold higher sensitivity than that of standalone real-time RT-PCR and RT-RPA. In addition, due to the high amplification efficiency of RPA, the SOG RT-RPA/PCR assay shows stronger fluorescence detection signals and a shorter detection time compared to the standalone real-time RT-PCR assay. Furthermore, we detected HIV viral RNA in clinical plasma samples and validated the superior performance of our assay. Thus, the SOG RT-RPA/PCR assay offers a powerful method for simple, rapid, and highly sensitive nucleic acid-based molecular detection of infectious diseases.