Hybridisation assays, which are commonly used to analyse oligonucleotides such as siRNAs and miRNAs, often employ detection probes with fluorescent tags. The signal emitted by a fluorescent tag covers a broad range of wavelengths and this limits the multiplexing potential due to overlapping signals. A novel method of indirect oligonucleotide analysis has been developed which combines a hybridisation assay with cleavable small molecule mass tags using HPLC-ESI MS detection. A self-reporting detection probe has been designed which incorporates a DNA/RNA chimeric oligonucleotide sequence in the reporter region, which generates small nucleotide products upon RNase cleavage of the ribose-phosphate backbone. These small nucleotides can then serve as mass tags for the indirect detection of oligonucleotide analytes. The narrow mass range covered by a small molecule mass tag combined with the wide range of possible mass tags provides a high degree of multiplexing potential. This approach has been demonstrated for the analysis of a synthetic miRNA.
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