The importance of microRNA (miRNA) dysregulation in the development and progression of diseases has made these short-length nucleic acids to next generation biomarkers. Tb-to-QD Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) has several unique advantages over organic dye-based FRET systems for biomolecular sensing. Large Förster distances (6-11 nm) offer much high FRET efficiencies, exceptionally long Tb excited-state lifetimes (ms) enable time-gated detection void of autofluorecence background, and the narrow, symmetric, and tunable emission bands of QDs provide unrivaled potential for multiplexing. Here we report a rapid and homogeneous method to sensitively detect three different miRNAs (hsa-miR-20a-5p, hsa-miR-20b-5p, and hsa-miR-21-5p) from a single 150 µL sample based on multiplexed FRET between a luminescent Lumi4-Tb complex and three different QDs. The biosensing approach exploits both base pairing and stacking. Careful design and optimization of sequence lengths and orientations of the QD and Tb-DNA conjugates was performed to provide maximum selectivity and sensitivity for all three miRNA biomarkers. The assays work at room temperature and were designed for their application on a KRYPTOR diagnostic plate reader system.Only 30 min of sample incubation and 7.5 s of measurement are required to obtain ca. 1 nM (subpicomol) detection limits. We also demonstrate precise multiplexed measurements of these miRNAs at different and varying concentrations and the feasibility of adapting the technology to point-of-care testing (POCT) in buffer containing 10% serum. Our assay does not only demonstrate an important milestone for the integration of quantum dots to multiplexed clinical diagnostics but also a unique rapid miRNA detection technology that is complimentary to the rather complicated high-throughput and high-sensitivity approaches that are established today.
Xue Qiu and Niko Hildebrandt, "Terbium complex to quantum dot Förster resonance energy transfer for homogeneous and multiplexed microRNA assay (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 9722, Colloidal Nanoparticles for Biomedical Applications XI, 972218 (Presented at SPIE BiOS: February 15, 2016; Published: 28 April 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2209674.4848770158001.
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