Micro RNA sensing with green emitting silver nanoclusters

Liam E. Yourston, Alexey V. Krasnoslobodtse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Micro RNA (miR) are regulatory non-coding RNA molecules, which contain a small number of nucleotides ~18-28 nt. There are many various miR sequences found in plants and animals that perform important functions in developmental, metabolic, and disease processes. miRs can bind to complementary sequences within mRNA molecules thus silencing mRNA. Other functions include cardiovascular and neural development, stem cell differentiation, apoptosis, and tumors. In tumors, some miRs can function as oncogenes, others as tumor suppressors. Levels of certain miR molecules reflect cellular events, both normal and pathological. Therefore, miR molecules can be used as biomarkers for disease diagnosis and prognosis. One of these promising molecules is miR-21, which can serve as a biomarker with high potential for early diagnosis of various types of cancer. Here, we present a novel design of miR detection and demonstrate its efficacy on miR-21. The design employs emissive properties of DNA-silver nanoclusters (DNA/AgNC). The detection probe is designed as a hairpin DNA structure with one side of the stem complimentary to miR molecule. The binding of target miR-21 opens the hairpin structure, dramatically modulating emissive properties of AgNC hosted by the C12 loop of the hairpin. "Red"fluorescence of the DNA/AgNC probe is diminished in the presence of the target miR. At the same time, "green"fluorescence is activated and its intensity increases several-fold. The increase in intensity of "green"fluorescence is strong enough to detect the presence of miR-21. The intensity change follows the concentration dependence of the target miR present in a sample, which provides the basis of developing a new, simple probe for miR detection. The detection strategy is specific, as demonstrated using the response of the DNA/AgNC probe towards the scrambled miR-21 sequence and miR-25 molecule. Additionally, the design reported here is very sensitive with an estimated detection limit at ~1 picomole of miR-21.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3026
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Cytosine rich sequences
  • Fluorescence
  • MiR detection
  • MiR-21
  • Silver nanoclusters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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