H. Tom Soh, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Analytical technologies based on binding assays have evolved substantially since their inception nearly 60 years ago, but our conceptual understanding of molecular recognition has not kept pace. Contemporary technologies, such as single-molecule and digital measurements, have challenged, or even rendered obsolete, core concepts behind conventional binding assay design. Here, we explore the fundamental principles underlying molecular recognition systems, which we consider in terms of signals generated through concentration-dependent shifts in equilibrium. We challenge certain orthodoxies related to binding-based detection assays, including the primary importance of a low dissociation constant (KD) and the extent to which this parameter constrains dynamic range and limit of detection. Lastly, we identify key principles for designing binding assays that are optimally suited for a given detection application.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.tibs.2020.04.005
View details for PubMedID 32402748
Nanopore sequencing offers a portable and affordable alternative to sequencing-by-synthesis methods but suffers from lower accuracy and cannot sequence ultrashort DNA. This puts applications such as molecular diagnostics based on the analysis of cell-free DNA or single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) out of reach. To overcome these limitations, we report a nanopore-based sequencing strategy in which short target sequences are first circularized and then amplified via rolling-circle amplification to produce long stretches of concatemeric repeats. After sequencing on the Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION platform, the resulting repeat sequences can be aligned to produce a highly accurate consensus that reduces the high error-rate present in the individual repeats. Using this approach, we demonstrate for the first time the ability to obtain unbiased and accurate nanopore data for target DNA sequences <100 bp. Critically, this approach is sensitive enough to achieve SNV discrimination in mixtures of sequences and even enables quantitative detection of specific variants present at ratios of <10%. Our method is simple, cost-effective, and only requires well-established processes. It therefore expands the utility of nanopore sequencing for molecular diagnostics and other applications, especially in resource-limited settings.
View details for PubMedID 31038923
Molecular switches that change their conformation upon target binding offer powerful capabilities for biotechnology and synthetic biology. Aptamers are useful as molecular switches because they offer excellent binding properties, undergo reversible folding, and can be engineered into many nanostructures. Unfortunately, the thermodynamic and kinetic properties of the aptamer switches developed to date are intrinsically coupled, such that high temporal resolution can only be achieved at the cost of lower sensitivity or high background. Here, we describe a design strategy that decouples and enables independent control over the thermodynamics and kinetics of aptamer switches. Starting from a single aptamer, we create an array of aptamer switches with effective dissociation constants ranging from 10 μM to 40 mM and binding kinetics ranging from 170 ms to 3 s. Our strategy is broadly applicable to other aptamers, enabling the development of switches suitable for a diverse range of biotechnology applications.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-019-13137-x
View details for PubMedID 31699984
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