Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang


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Simultaneous Detection of L‐Lactate and D‐Glucose Using DNA Aptamers in Human Blood Serum**
Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Juewen Liu
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Volume 62, Issue 12

L-lactate is a key metabolite indicative of physiological states, glycolysis pathways, and various diseases such as sepsis, heart attack, lactate acidosis, and cancer. Detection of lactate has been relying on a few enzymes that need additional oxidants. In this work, DNA aptamers for L-lactate were obtained using a library-immobilization selection method and the highest affinity aptamer reached a Kd of 0.43 mM as determined using isothermal titration calorimetry. The aptamers showed up to 50-fold selectivity for L-lactate over D-lactate and had little responses to other closely related analogs such as pyruvate or 3-hydroxybutyrate. A fluorescent biosensor based on the strand displacement method showed a limit of detection of 0.55 mM L-lactate, and the sensor worked in 90 % serum. Simultaneous detection of L-lactate and D-glucose in the same solution was achieved. This work has broadened the scope of aptamers to simple metabolites and provided a useful probe for continuous and multiplexed monitoring.


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Selection of Aptamers for Sensing Caffeine and Discrimination of Its Three Single Demethylated Analogues
Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Juewen Liu
Analytical Chemistry, Volume 94, Issue 7

With the growing consumption of caffeine-containing beverages, detection of caffeine has become an important biomedical, bioanalytical, and environmental topic. We herein isolated four high-quality aptamers for caffeine with dissociation constants ranging from 2.2 to 14.6 μM as characterized using isothermal titration calorimetry. Different binding patterns were obtained for the three single demethylated analogues: theobromine, theophylline, and paraxanthine, highlighting the effect of the molecular symmetry of the arrangement of the three methyl groups in caffeine. A structure-switching fluorescent sensor was designed showing a detection limit of 1.2 μM caffeine, which reflected the labeled caffeine concentration within 6.1% difference for eight commercial beverages. In 20% human serum, a detection limit of 4.0 μM caffeine was achieved. With the four aptamer sensors forming an array, caffeine and the three analogues were well separated from nine other closely related molecules.

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A DNA Aptamer for Theophylline with Ultrahigh Selectivity Reminiscent of the Classic RNA Aptamer
Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Juewen Liu
ACS Chemical Biology, Volume 17, Issue 8

Since the report of the RNA aptamer for theophylline, theophylline has become a key molecule in chemical biology for designing RNA switches and riboswitches. In addition, theophylline is an important drug for treating airway diseases including asthma. The classic RNA aptamer with excellent selectivity for theophylline has been used to design biosensors, although DNA aptamers are more desirable for stability and cost considerations. In this work, we selected DNA aptamers for theophylline, and all the top sequences shared the same binding motifs. Binding was confirmed using isothermal titration calorimetry and a nuclease digestion assay, showing a dissociation constant (Kd) around 0.5 μM theophylline. The Theo2201 aptamer can be truncated down to 23-mer while still has a Kd of 9.8 μM. The selectivity for theophylline over caffeine is around 250,000-fold based on a strand-displacement assay, which was more than 20-fold higher compared to the classic RNA aptamer. For other tested analogs, the DNA aptamer also showed better selectivity. Using the structure-switching aptamer sensor design method, a detection limit of 17 nM theophylline was achieved in the selection buffer, and a detection limit of 31 nM was obtained in 10% serum.


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Probing Metal-Dependent Phosphate Binding for the Catalysis of the 17E DNAzyme
Woohyun J. Moon, Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Juewen Liu
Biochemistry, Volume 60, Issue 24

The RNA-cleaving 17E DNAzyme exhibits different levels of cleavage activity in the presence of various divalent metal ions, with Pb2+ giving the fastest cleavage. In this study, the metal-phosphate interaction is probed to understand the trend of activity with different metal ions. For the first-row transition metals, the lowest activity shown by Ni2+ correlates with the inhibition by the inorganic phosphate and its water ligand exchange rate, suggesting inner-sphere metal coordination. Cleavage activity with the two stereoisomers of the phosphorothioate-modified substrates, Rp and Sp, indicated that Mg2+, Mn2+, Fe2+, and Co2+ had the highest Sp:Rp activity ratio of >900. Comparatively, the activity was much less affected using the thiophilic metals, including Pb2+, suggesting inner-sphere coordination. The pH-rate profiles showed that Pb2+ was different than the rest of the metal ions in having a smaller slope and a similar fitted apparent pKa and the pKa of metal-bound water. Combining previous reports and our current results, we propose that Pb2+ most likely plays the role of a general acid while the other metal ions are Lewis acid catalysts interacting with the scissile phosphate.


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Target Self‐Enhanced Selectivity in Metal‐Specific DNAzymes
Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Donatien de Rochambeau, Hanadi F. Sleiman, Juewen Liu
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Volume 59, Issue 9

The more the merrier: Better selectivity for Zn2+ ions is shown for DNAzymes that bind more metal ions. This selectivity is exemplified by using a series of in vitro selected DNAzymes that contain a single metal ligand modification at the cleavage junction.

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Selection of a metal ligand modified DNAzyme for detecting Ni2+
Wei Ren, Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Donatien de Rochambeau, Woohyun J. Moon, Jinyi Zhang, Mingsheng Lyu, Shujun Wang, Hanadi F. Sleiman, Juewen Liu
Biosensors and Bioelectronics, Volume 165

Abstract Nickel is a highly important metal, and the detection of Ni2+ using biosensors is a long-stand analytical challenge. DNA has been widely used for metal detection, although no DNA-based sensors were reported for Ni2+. DNAzymes are DNA-based catalysts, and they recruit metal ions for catalysis. In this work, in vitro selection of RNA-cleaving DNAzymes was carried out using a library containing a region of 50 random nucleotides in the presence of Ni2+. To increase Ni2+ binding, a glycyl–histidine-functionalized tertiary amine moiety was inserted at the cleavage junction. A representative DNAzyme named Ni03 showed a high cleavage yield with Ni2+ and it was further studied. After truncation, the optimal sequence of Ni03l could bind one Ni2+ or two Co2+ for catalysis, while other metal ions were inactive. Its cleavage rates for 100 μM Ni2+ reached 0.63 h−1 at pH 8.0. A catalytic beacon biosensor was designed by labeling a fluorophore and a quencher on the Ni03l DNAzyme. Fluorescence enhancement was observed in the presence of Ni2+ with a detection limit of 12.9 μM. The sensor was also tested in spiked Lake Ontario water achieving a similar sensitivity. This is another example of using single-site modified DNAzyme for sensing transition metal ions.

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<scp>DNA</scp> ‐Enabled Heavy Metal Detection in Water
Woohyun J. Moon, Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Juewen Liu
Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Detection of heavy metal contamination in the environment is an on-going analytical challenge. In effort of developing portable biosensors, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)-based designs have gained much attention for their high affinity and specificity to metals, stability, cost-efficiency, ease of modification, and batch-to-batch reproducibility. Specific sequences of DNA aptamers and DNAzymes provide grounds for rational designs of fluorescent, colorimetric, and electrochemical detection methods. Aptamers exert only a binding function, while DNAzymes can use heavy metals to catalyze specific chemical and biological transformations. This article starts with a brief introduction of heavy metals and their interactions with DNA. Then DNA aptamers and DNAzymes are respectively reviewed from their in vitro selection, representative DNA sequences, and design of biosensors. For signal transduction, various fluorescent, colorimetric, and electrochemical examples are described. Finally, future perspectives are discussed.


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Phosphorothioate DNA Mediated Sequence-Insensitive Etching and Ripening of Silver Nanoparticles
Shengqiang Hu, Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Jianxiu Wang, Juewen Liu
Frontiers in Chemistry, Volume 7

Many DNA-functionalized nanomaterials and biosensors have been reported, but most have ignored the influence of DNA on the stability of nanoparticles. We observed that cytosine-rich DNA oligonucleotides can etch silver nanoparticles (AgNPs). In this work, we showed that phosphorothioate (PS)-modified DNA (PS-DNA) can etch AgNPs independently of DNA sequence, suggesting that the thio-modifications are playing the major role in etching. Compared to unmodified DNA (e.g., poly-cytosine DNA), the concentration of required PS DNA decreases sharply, and the reaction rate increases. Furthermore, etching by PS-DNA occurs quite independent of pH, which is also different from unmodified DNA. The PS-DNA mediated etching could also be controlled well by varying DNA length and conformation, and the number and location of PS modifications. With a higher activity of PS-DNA, the process of etching, ripening, and further etching was taken place sequentially. The etching ability is inhibited by forming duplex DNA and thus etching can be used to measure the concentration of complementary DNA.


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Reselection Yielding a Smaller and More Active Silver-Specific DNAzyme
Lide Gu, Runjhun Saran, Wanli Yan, Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Shujun Wang, Mingsheng Lyu, Juewen Liu
ACS Omega, Volume 3, Issue 11

Ag10c is a recently reported RNA-cleaving DNAzyme obtained from in vitro selection. Its cleavage activity selectively requires Ag+ ions, and thus it has been used as a sensor for Ag+ detection. However, the previous selection yielded very limited information regarding its sequence requirement, since only ∼0.1% of the population in the final library were related to Ag10c and most other sequences were inactive. In this work, we performed a reselection by randomizing the 19 important nucleotides in Ag10c in such a way that a purine has an equal chance of being A or G, whereas a pyrimidine has an equal chance of being T or C. The round 3 library of the reselection was carefully analyzed and a statistic understanding of the relative importance of each nucleotide was obtained. At the same time, a more active mutant was identified, containing two mutated nucleotides. Further analysis indicated new base pairs leading to an enzyme with smaller catalytic loops but with ∼200% activity of the original Ag10c, and also excellent selectivity for Ag+. Therefore, a more active mutant of Ag10c was obtained and further truncations were successfully performed, which might be better candidates for developing new biosensors for silver. A deeper biochemical understanding was also obtained using this reselection method.

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Misfolding of a DNAzyme for ultrahigh sodium selectivity over potassium
Yanping He, Da Chen, Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Yibo Zhou, Lingfei Ma, Kexin Xu, Ronghua Yang, Juewen Liu
Nucleic Acids Research, Volume 46, Issue 19

Herein, the excellent Na+ selectivity of a few RNA-cleaving DNAzymes was exploited, where Na+ can be around 3000-fold more effective than K+ for promoting catalysis. By using a double mutant based on the Ce13d DNAzyme, and by lowering the temperature, increased 2-aminopurine (2AP) fluorescence was observed with addition of both Na+ and K+. The fluorescence increase was similar for these two metals at below 10 mM, after which K+ took a different pathway. Since 2AP probes its local base stacking environment, K+ can be considered to induce misfolding. Binding of both Na+ and K+ was specific, since single base mutations could fully inhibit 2AP fluorescence for both metals. The binding thermodynamics was measured by temperature-dependent experiments revealing enthalpy-driven binding for both metals and less coordination sites compared to G-quadruplex DNA. Cleavage activity assays indicated a moderate cleavage activity with 10 mM K+, while further increase of K+ inhibited the activity, also supporting its misfolding of the DNAzyme. For comparison, a G-quadruplex DNA was also studied using the same system, where Na+ and K+ led to the same final state with only around 8-fold difference in Kd. This study provides interesting insights into strategies for discriminating Na+ and K+.

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Instantaneous Iodine-Assisted DNAzyme Cleavage of Phosphorothioate RNA
Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Woohyun J. Moon, Juewen Liu
Biochemistry, Volume 58, Issue 5

Metal ions play a critical role in the RNA-cleavage reaction by interacting with the scissile phosphate and stabilizing the highly negatively charged transition state. Many metal-dependent DNAzymes have been selected for RNA cleavage. Herein, we report that the Ce13d DNAzyme can use nonmetallic iodine (I2) to cleave a phosphorothioate (PS)-modified substrate. The cleavage yield exceeded 60% for both the Rp and Sp stereoisomers in 10 s, while the yield without the enzyme strand was only ∼10%. The Ce13d cleavage with I2 also required Na+, consistent with the property of Ce13d and confirming the similar role of I2 as a metal ion. Ce13d had the highest yield among eight tested DNAzymes, with the second highest DNAzyme showing only 20% cleavage. The incomplete cleavage was due to competition from desulfurization and isomerization reactions. This DNAzyme was engineered for fluorescence-based I2 detection. With EDTA for masking metal ions, I2 was selectively detected down to 4.7 nM. Oxidation of I- with Fe3+ produced I2 in situ, allowing detection of Fe3+ down to 78 nM. By harnessing nonelectrostatic interactions, such as the I2/sulfur interaction observed here, more nonmetal species might be discovered to assist DNAzyme-based RNA cleavage.

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Highly active fluorogenic oxidase-mimicking NiO nanozymes
Li Dai, Biwu Liu, Po‐Jung Jimmy Huang, Zijie Zhang, Juewen Liu
Chemical Communications, Volume 54, Issue 88

NiO nanoparticles can quickly catalyze oxidation of Amplex red to produce fluorescent products for intracellular imaging, much more efficiently than other types of tested nanozymes.