Indexed on: 04 May '10Published on: 04 May '10Published in: Electroanalysis
Recent years have seen the emergence of a new class of electrochemical sensors predicated on target binding-induced folding of electrode-bound redox-modified aptamers and directed against targets ranging from small molecules to proteins. Previous studies of the relationship between gain and probe-density for these electrochemical, aptamer-based (E-AB) sensors suggest that signal transduction is linked to binding-induced changes in the efficiency with which the attached redox tag strikes the electrode. This, in turn, suggests that even well folded aptamers may support E-AB signaling if target binding sufficiently alters their flexibility. Here we investigate this using a thrombin-binding aptamer that undergoes binding-induced folding at low ionic strength but can be forced to adopt a folded conformation at higher ionic strength even in the absence of its protein target. We find that, under conditions in which the thrombin aptamer is fully folded prior to target binding, we still obtain a ca. 30% change in E-AB signal upon saturated target levels. In contrast, however, under conditions in which the aptamer is unfolded in the absence of target and thus undergoes binding-induced folding the observed signal change is twice as great. The ability of folded aptamers to support E-AB signaling, however, is not universal: a fully folded anti-IgE aptamer, for example, produces only an extremely small, ca. 2.5% signal change in the presence of target despite the larger steric bulk of this protein. Thus, while it appears that binding-induced changes in the dynamics in fully folded aptamers can support E-AB signaling, this signaling mechanism may not be general, and in order to ensure the design of high-gain sensors binding must be linked to a large-scale conformational change.