Development and characterization of a novel isothermal DNA amplification reaction
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Isothermal nucleic acid amplification chemistries are gaining popularity as nucleic acid detection tools that can replace the current gold standard methods, PCR and its derivatives, with their simplicity, speed and applicability to point-of-care applications. In this work, we have developed and characterized a novel isothermal amplification chemistry, ultrasensitive DNA amplification reaction (UDAR). UDAR differs from similar chemistries with its unique, biphasic response with a high-gain output that can be captured with a cell-phone camera. The switch-like, nonlinear characteristics provide a definitive on/off signal for potential use in applications such as molecular diagnostics and DNA circuits. Tunability of the reaction was explored and the relationship between thermodynamic properties of the reaction templates and the reaction output was established. Limitations on fluorescent staining of reaction components by two popular commercial nucleic acid stains, SYBR Green II and SYBR Gold, were determined for a more accurate evaluation of the reaction output and reaction product analysis. A mathematical model of the reaction output was built and outputs from three different UDAR templates were successfully simulated. This model revealed important information on reaction pathways and helped identify the impact of individual reaction events. A comprehensive literature review of enhancement strategies for isothermal amplification reactions was conducted to serve as a guide to improve and modify these reactions according to different needs and applications. Lastly, UDAR was applied to microRNA detection, which are putative biomarkers for diseases such as cancer, malaria, and traumatic brain injury. Five different miRNAs were successfully detected by UDAR, down to 10 fM concentration. UDAR-based miRNA quantification is possible, with linear calibration curves provided between 10fM and 1 nM. This work has significant contributions to the growing field of isothermal nucleic acid amplification based-molecular detection systems by introducing a unique isothermal amplification chemistry, establishing design and manipulation techniques, and guiding improvement efforts of these technologies.