A direct detection of Escherichia coli genomic DNA using gold nanoprobes

Bakthavathsalam Padmavathy, Vinoth Kumar Rajendran, B. M. Jaffar Ali*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Background: In situation like diagnosis of clinical and forensic samples there exists a need for highly sensitive, rapid and specific DNA detection methods. Though conventional DNA amplification using PCR can provide fast results, it is not widely practised in diagnostic laboratories partially because it requires skilled personnel and expensive equipment. To overcome these limitations nanoparticles have been explored as signalling probes for ultrasensitive DNA detection that can be used in field applications. Among the nanomaterials, gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) have been extensively used mainly because of its optical property and ability to get functionalized with a variety of biomolecules.

Results: We report a protocol for the use of gold nanoparticles functionalized with single stranded oligonucleotide (AuNP- oligo probe) as visual detection probes for rapid and specific detection of Escherichia coli. The AuNP- oligo probe on hybridization with target DNA containing complementary sequences remains red whereas test samples without complementary DNA sequences to the probe turns purple due to acid induced aggregation of AuNP- oligo probes. The color change of the solution is observed visually by naked eye demonstrating direct and rapid detection of the pathogenic Escherichia coli from its genomic DNA without the need for PCR amplification. The limit of detection was ~54 ng for unamplified genomic DNA. The method requires less than 30 minutes to complete after genomic DNA extraction. However, by using unamplified enzymatic digested genomic DNA, the detection limit of 11.4 ng was attained. Results of UV-Vis spectroscopic measurement and AFM imaging further support the hypothesis of aggregation based visual discrimination. To elucidate its utility in medical diagnostic, the assay was validated on clinical strains of pathogenic Escherichia coli obtained from local hospitals and spiked urine samples. It was found to be 100% sensitive and proves to be highly specific without any cross reaction with non-Escherichia coli strains.

Conclusion: This work gives entry into a new class of DNA/gold nanoparticles hybrid materials which might have optical property that can be controlled for application in diagnostics. We note that it should be possible to extend this strategy easily for developing new types of DNA biosensor for point of care detection. The salient feature of this approach includes low-cost, robust reagents and simple colorimetric detection of pathogen.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nanobiotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2012. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • clinical diagnosis
  • colorimetric detection
  • DNA detection
  • Escherichia coli
  • gold nanoparticles


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