A sensitive hairpin smart probe (SP) has been developed and tested for its sequence-specificity and sensitivity for detecting microRNAs (miRNAs). The loop sequence of this SP is perfectly complementary to microRNA-21 (miR-21) sequence. This miRNA regulates certain biological processes and has been implicated in certain forms of cancer. The stem of the new SP consists of a fluorophore on one end and multiple guanine bases on the opposing end are used as quenchers. The fluorescence of the SP is significantly quenched by the guanine bases at room temperature and in the absence of the miR-21 target. The presence of miR-21 switches on the fluorescence due to spontaneous hybridization of the SP with this target, which also forces the stem hybrid of the SP apart. This new SP successfully discriminated between the perfect miR-21 target and two closely similar single-base mismatch sequences. When the SP was incubated with the miR-21 at 37 ℃, the hybridization kinetics increased seven times, compared to room temperature hybridization. Overall, this new SP shows good detection sensitivity and gives a limit of detection and limit of quantitation of 14.0 nM and 46.7 nM, respectively. This detection platform represents a simple, fast, mix-and-read homogeneous assay for sequence-specific detection of miR-21, and it can be adapted for other related diagnostic applications.
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