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Venkova, Tatiana, Juárez, Antonio, Espinosa, Manuel, (2017). Editorial: Modulating prokaryotic lifestyle by DNA-binding proteins: Learning from (apparently) simple systems Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences 3, Article 86

Within the research in Molecular Biology, one important field along the years has been the analyses on how prokaryotes regulate the expression of their genes and what the consequences of these activities are. Prokaryotes have attracted the interests of researchers not only because the processes taking place in their world are important to cells, but also because many of the effects often can be readily measured, both at the single cell level and in large populations. Contributing to the interest of the present topic is the fact that modulation of gene activity involves the sensing of intra- and inter-cellular conditions, DNA binding and DNA dynamics, and interaction with the replication/transcription machinery of the cell. All of these processes are fundamental to the operation of a biological entity and they condition its lifestyle. Further, the discoveries achieved in the bacterial world have been of ample use in eukaryotes. In addition to the fundamental interest of understanding modulation of prokaryotic lifestyle by DNA-binding proteins, there is an added interest from the healthcare point of view. As it is well-known the antibiotic-resistance strains of pathogenic bacteria are a major world problem, so that there is an urgent need of innovative approaches to tackle it. Human and animal infectious diseases impose staggering costs worldwide in terms of loss of human life and livestock, diminished productivity, and the heavy economic burden of disease. The global dimension of international trade, personal travel, and population migration expands at an ever-accelerating rate. This increasing mobility results in broader and quicker dissemination of bacterial pathogens and in rapid spread of antibiotic resistance. The majority of the newly acquired resistances are horizontally spread among bacteria of the same or different species by processes of lateral (horizontal) gene transfer, so that discovery of new antibiotics is not the definitive solution to fighting infectious diseases. There is an absolute need of finding novel alternatives to the “classical” approach to treat infections by bacterial pathogens, and these new ways must include the exploration and introduction of novel antibacterials, the development of alternative strategies, and the finding of novel bacterial targets. However, all these approaches will result in a stalemate if we, researchers, are not able to achieve a better understanding of the mechanistic processes underlying bacterial gene expression. It is, then, imperative to continue gaining insight into the basic mechanisms by which bacterial cells regulate the expression of their genes. That is why our Research Topic hosted by Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences was timely, and the output of it offers novel and up-to-date points of view to the “simple” bacterial world.

Keywords: DNA-protein interactions, Gene regulation in Prokaryotes, Replication control, Regulation of Bacterial Gene Expression, Global Regulatory Networks


Gállego, Isaac, Manning, Brendan, Prades, Joan Daniel, Mir, Mònica, Samitier, Josep, Eritja, Ramon, (2017). DNA-origami-driven lithography for patterning on gold surfaces with sub-10 nm resolution Advanced Materials 29, 1603233

Ramos, E., Pardo, W. A., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2017). Dependence of carbon nanotubes dispersion kinetics on surfactants Nanotechnology 28, (13), 135702

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been the subject of many studies due to their unique structure and desirable properties. However, the ability to solubilize and separate single CNTs from the bundles they form is still a challenge that needs to be overcome in order to extend their applications in the field of Nanotechnology. Covalent interactions are designed to modify CNTs surface and so prevent agglomeration. Though, this method alters the structures and intrinsic properties of CNTs. In the present work, noncovalent approaches to functionalize and solubilize CNTs are studied in detail. A dispersion kinetic study was performed to characterize the ability of different type of surfactants (non-ionic, anionic, cationic and biopolymer) to unzip CNT bundles. The dispersion kinetic study performed depicts the distinct CNTs bundles unzipping behavior of the different type of surfactants and the results elucidate specific wavelengths in relation with the degree of CNT clustering, which provides new tools for a deeper understanding and characterization of CNTs. Small angle x-ray scattering and transmission electron microscopy results are in agreement with UV-vis-NIR observations, revealing perfectly monodispersed CNTs for the biopolymer and cationic surfactant.

Keywords: Dispersion, DNA, Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), Small angle x-ray scattering (SAXS), Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), Surfactant, Triton X-100


Zaffino, R. L., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2017). Oligonucleotide probes functionalization of nanogap electrodes Electrophoresis Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)

Nanogap electrodes have attracted a lot of consideration as promising platform for molecular electronic and biomolecules detection. This is mainly for their higher aspect ratio, and because their electrical properties are easily accessed by current-voltage measurements. Nevertheless, application of standard current-voltages measurements used to characterize nanogap response, and/or to modify specific nanogap electrodes properties, represents an issue. Since the strength of electrical fields in nanoscaled devices can reach high values, even at low voltages. Here, we analyzed the effects induced by different methods of surface modification of nanogap electrodes, in test-voltage application, employed for the electrical detection of a desoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) target. Nanogap electrodes were functionalized with two antisymmetric oligo-probes designed to have 20 terminal bases complementary to the edges of the target, which after hybridization bridges the nanogap, closing the electrical circuit. Two methods of functionalization were studied for this purpose; a random self-assembling of a mixture of the two oligo-probes (OPs) used in the platform, and a selective method that controls the position of each OP at selected side of nanogap electrodes. We used for this aim, the electrophoretic effect induced on negatively charged probes by the application of an external direct current voltage. The results obtained with both functionalization methods where characterized and compared in terms of electrode surface covering, calculated by using voltammetry analysis. Moreover, we contrasted the electrical detection of a DNA target in the nanogap platform either in site-selective and in randomly assembled nanogap. According to our results, a denser, although not selective surface functionalization, is advantageous for such kind of applications.

Keywords: Biosensor bioelectronics, DNA electrophoresis, Nanogap electrodes, Self-assembled monolayers, Site-selective deposition


Solano-Collado, Virtu, Hüttener, Márrio, Espinosa, Manuel, Juárez, Antonio, Bravo, Alicia, (2016). MgaSpn and H-NS: Two unrelated global regulators with similar DNA-binding properties Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences 3, Article 60

Global regulators play an essential role in the adaptation of bacterial cells to specific niches. Bacterial pathogens thriving in the tissues and organs of their eukaryotic hosts are a well-studied example. Some of the proteins that recognize local DNA structures rather than specific nucleotide sequences act as global modulators in many bacteria, both Gram-negative and -positive. To this class of regulators belong the H-NS-like proteins, mainly identified in γ-Proteobacteria, and the MgaSpn-like proteins identified in Firmicutes. H-NS and MgaSpn from Escherichia coli and Streptococcus pneumoniae, respectively, neither have sequence similarity nor share structural domains. Nevertheless, they display common features in their interaction with DNA, namely: (i) they bind to DNA in a non-sequence-specific manner, (ii) they have a preference for intrinsically curved DNA regions, and (iii) they are able to form multimeric complexes on linear DNA. Using DNA fragments from the hemolysin operon regulatory region of the E. coli plasmid pHly152, we show in this work that MgaSpn is able to recognize particular regions on extended H-NS binding sites. Such regions are either located at or flanked by regions of potential bendability. Moreover, we show that the regulatory region of the pneumococcal P1623B promoter, which is recognized by MgaSpn, contains DNA motifs that are recognized by H-NS. These motifs are adjacent to regions of potential bendability. Our results suggest that both regulatory proteins recognize similar structural characteristics of DNA.

Keywords: Global transcriptional regulators, Nucleoid-associated proteins, Mga/AtxA family, Protein-DNA interactions, DNA bendability


Crespo, Anna, Pedraz, Lucas, Astola, Josep, Torrents, Eduard, (2016). Pseudomonas aeruginosa exhibits deficient biofilm formation in the absence of class II and III ribonucleotide reductases due to hindered anaerobic growth Frontiers in Microbiology 7, Article 688

Chronic lung infections by the ubiquitous and extremely adaptable opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa correlate with the formation of a biofilm, where bacteria grow in association with an extracellular matrix and display a wide range of changes in gene expression and metabolism. This leads to increased resistance to physical stress and antibiotic therapies, while enhancing cell-to-cell communication. Oxygen diffusion through the complex biofilm structure generates an oxygen concentration gradient, leading to the appearance of anaerobic microenvironments. Ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs) are a family of highly sophisticated enzymes responsible for the synthesis of the deoxyribonucleotides, and they constitute the only de novo pathway for the formation of the building blocks needed for DNA synthesis and repair. P. aeruginosa is one of the few bacteria encoding all three known RNR classes (Ia, II, and III). Class Ia RNRs are oxygen dependent, class II are oxygen independent, and class III are oxygen sensitive. A tight control of RNR activity is essential for anaerobic growth and therefore for biofilm development. In this work we explored the role of the different RNR classes in biofilm formation under aerobic and anaerobic initial conditions and using static and continuous-flow biofilm models. We demonstrated the importance of class II and III RNR for proper cell division in biofilm development and maturation. We also determined that these classes are transcriptionally induced during biofilm formation and under anaerobic conditions. The molecular mechanism of their anaerobic regulation was also studied, finding that the Anr/Dnr system is responsible for class II RNR induction. These data can be integrated with previous knowledge about biofilms in a model where these structures are understood as a set of layers determined by oxygen concentration and contain cells with different RNR expression profiles, bringing us a step closer to the understanding of this complex growth pattern, essential for P. aeruginosa chronic infections.

Keywords: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Ribonucleotide Reductases, Vitamin B 12, Anaerobic metabolism, Biofilm formation, DNA Synthesis, Oxygen diffusion, nrd genes.


Galán, T., Prieto-Simón, B., Alvira, M., Eritja, R., Götz, G., Bäuerle, P., Samitier, J., (2015). Label-free electrochemical DNA sensor using "click"-functionalized PEDOT electrodes Biosensors and Bioelectronics 74, 751-756

Here we describe a label-free electrochemical DNA sensor based on poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)-modified (PEDOT-modified) electrodes. An acetylene-terminated DNA probe, complementary to a specific "Hepatitis C" virus sequence, was immobilized onto azido-derivatized conducting PEDOT electrodes using "click" chemistry. DNA hybridization was then detected by differential pulse voltammetry, evaluating the changes in the electrochemical properties of the polymer produced by the recognition event. A limit of detection of 0.13. nM was achieved using this highly selective PEDOT-based genosensor, without the need for labeling techniques or microelectrode fabrication processes. These results are promising for the development of label-free and reagentless DNA hybridization sensors based on conducting polymeric substrates. Biosensors can be easily prepared using any DNA sequence containing an alkyne moiety. The data presented here reveal the potential of this DNA sensor for diagnostic applications in the screening of diseases, such as "Hepatitis C", and genetic mutations.

Keywords: Azido-EDOT, Click chemistry, Differential pulse voltammetry, DNA biosensor, Electrochemistry, Hepatitis C virus


Baelo, Aida, Levato, Riccardo, Julián, Esther, Crespo, Anna, Astola, José, Gavaldà, Joan, Engel, Elisabeth, Mateos-Timoneda, Miguel Angel, Torrents, Eduard, (2015). Disassembling bacterial extracellular matrix with DNase-coated nanoparticles to enhance antibiotic delivery in biofilm infections Journal of Controlled Release 209, 150-158

Abstract Infections caused by biofilm-forming bacteria are a major threat to hospitalized patients and the main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis. There is an urgent necessity for novel therapeutic approaches, since current antibiotic delivery fails to eliminate biofilm-protected bacteria. In this study, ciprofloxacin-loaded poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) nanoparticles, which were functionalized with DNase I, were fabricated using a green-solvent based method and their antibiofilm activity was assessed against Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms. Such nanoparticles constitute a paradigm shift in biofilm treatment, since, besides releasing ciprofloxacin in a controlled fashion, they are able to target and disassemble the biofilm by degrading the extracellular DNA that stabilize the biofilm matrix. These carriers were compared with free-soluble ciprofloxacin, and ciprofloxacin encapsulated in untreated and poly(lysine)-coated nanoparticles. DNase I-activated nanoparticles were not only able to prevent biofilm formation from planktonic bacteria, but they also successfully reduced established biofilm mass, size and living cell density, as observed in a dynamic environment in a flow cell biofilm assay. Moreover, repeated administration over three days of DNase I-coated nanoparticles encapsulating ciprofloxacin was able to reduce by 95% and then eradicate more than 99.8% of established biofilm, outperforming all the other nanoparticle formulations and the free-drug tested in this study. These promising results, together with minimal cytotoxicity as tested on J774 macrophages, allow obtaining novel antimicrobial nanoparticles, as well as provide clues to design the next generation of drug delivery devices to treat persistent bacterial infections.

Keywords: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Biofilm, Ciprofloxacin, DNase I, Nanoparticles


Pardo, W. A., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2015). Signal enhancement in ultraflat electrochemical DNA biosensors Electrophoresis 36, (16), 1905-1911

The ability of holding back the undesired molecules, but at the same time to provide the right distribution and orientation of the bioreceptors, are critical targets to reach an efficient hybridization and enhanced detection in electrochemical DNA biosensors. The main actors responsible of these key functions are the substrate of the sensor and the interface auto-assembled on it. In this paper we present the annealing as a method to improve commercial gold evaporated substrates for biosensor applications. The restructuring of granulated gold surface by means of annealing heating treatment leads to the formation of ultraflat gold lamellar terraces. The formation of terraces was characterized with scanning tunneling microscopy and optical interferometry. The performance of the sensor sensitivity on granular substrates and ultraflat substrates was studied, concerning the orientation and surface coverage of the bioreceptor interface applied in electrochemical biosensor. The hybridization efficiency of ferrocene-labeled DNA amplified by PCR was characterized with surface plasmon resonance and electrochemistry. The experimental results demonstrate that annealing process, positive influence on optical and voltammetric readings, due to a structured organization of the bioreceptors on the flat substrate, gaining more efficient immobilization and DNA hybridization. The results suggest the annealing as a powerful tool for improving gold substrates in biosensors applications.

Keywords: Annealing ultraflat surfaces, DNA biosensor, DNA hybridization, Electrochemistry, Self-assembled monolayer


Cuervo, A., Dans, P. D., Carrascosa, J. L., Orozco, M., Gomila, G., Fumagalli, L., (2014). Direct measurement of the dielectric polarization properties of DNA Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, (35), E3624-E3630

The electric polarizability of DNA, represented by the dielectric constant, is a key intrinsic property that modulates DNA interaction with effector proteins. Surprisingly, it has so far remained unknown owing to the lack of experimental tools able to access it. Here, we experimentally resolved it by detecting the ultraweak polarization forces of DNA inside single T7 bacteriophages particles using electrostatic force microscopy. In contrast to the common assumption of low-polarizable behavior like proteins (εr ∼ 2-4), we found that the DNA dielectric constant is ∼8, considerably higher than the value of ∼3 found for capsid proteins. State-of-the-art molecular dynamic simulations confirm the experimental findings, which result in sensibly decreased DNA interaction free energy than normally predicted by Poisson-Boltzmann methods. Our findings reveal a property at the basis of DNA structure and functions that is needed for realistic theoretical descriptions, and illustrate the synergetic power of scanning probe microscopy and theoretical computation techniques.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Atomistic simulations, DNA packaging, DNA-ligand binding, Poisson-Boltzmann equation, capsid protein, DNA, double stranded DNA, amino acid composition, article, atomic force microscopy, bacteriophage, bacteriophage T7, dielectric constant, dipole, DNA binding, DNA packaging, DNA structure, electron microscopy, ligand binding, nonhuman, polarization, priority journal, protein analysis, protein DNA interaction, scanning probe microscopy, static electricity, virion, virus capsid, virus particle, atomic force microscopy, atomistic simulations, DNA packaging, DNA-ligand binding, Poisson-Boltzmann equation, Bacteriophage T7, Capsid, Cations, Dielectric Spectroscopy, DNA, DNA, Viral, DNA-Binding Proteins, Electrochemical Techniques, Ligands, Microscopy, Atomic Force, Models, Chemical, Nuclear Proteins


Andreu, I., Luque, T., Sancho, A., Pelacho, B., Iglesias-García, O., Melo, E., Farré, R., Prósper, F., Elizalde, M. R., Navajas, D., (2014). Heterogeneous micromechanical properties of the extracellular matrix in healthy and infarcted hearts Acta Biomaterialia 10, (7), 3235-3242

Infarcted hearts are macroscopically stiffer than healthy organs. Nevertheless, although cell behavior is mediated by the physical features of the cell niche, the intrinsic micromechanical properties of healthy and infarcted heart extracellular matrix (ECM) remain poorly characterized. Using atomic force microscopy, we studied ECM micromechanics of different histological regions of the left ventricle wall of healthy and infarcted mice. Hearts excised from healthy (n = 8) and infarcted mice (n = 8) were decellularized with sodium dodecyl sulfate and cut into 12 μm thick slices. Healthy ventricular ECM revealed marked mechanical heterogeneity across histological regions of the ventricular wall with the effective Young's modulus ranging from 30.2 ± 2.8 to 74.5 ± 8.7 kPa in collagen- and elastin-rich regions of the myocardium, respectively. Infarcted ECM showed a predominant collagen composition and was 3-fold stiffer than collagen-rich regions of the healthy myocardium. ECM of both healthy and infarcted hearts exhibited a solid-like viscoelastic behavior that conforms to two power-law rheology. Knowledge of intrinsic micromechanical properties of the ECM at the length scale at which cells sense their environment will provide further insight into the cell-scaffold interplay in healthy and infarcted hearts.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Extracellular matrix, Heart scaffold, Nanoindentation, Viscoelasticity


Zaffino, R. L., Mir, M., Samitier, J., (2014). Label-free detection of DNA hybridization and single point mutations in a nano-gap biosensor Nanotechnology 25, (10), 105501 (8)

We describe a conductance-based biosensor that exploits DNA-mediated long-range electron transport for the label-free and direct electrical detection of DNA hybridization. This biosensor platform comprises an array of vertical nano-gap biosensors made of gold and fabricated through standard photolithography combined with focused ion beam lithography. The nano-gap walls are covalently modified with short, anti-symmetric thiolated DNA probes, which are terminated by 19 bases complementary to both the ends of a target DNA strand. The nano-gaps are separated by a distance of 50nm, which was adjusted to fit the length of the DNA target plus the DNA probes. The hybridization of the target DNA closes the gap circuit in a switch on/off fashion, in such a way that it is readily detected by an increase in the current after nano-gap closure. The nano-biosensor shows high specificity in the discrimination of base-pair mismatching and does not require signal indicators or enhancing molecules. The design of the biosensor platform is applicable for multiplexed detection in a straightforward manner. The platform is well-suited to mass production, point-of-care diagnostics, and wide-scale DNA analysis applications.

Keywords: Biosensor, DNA hybridization, Labelfree, Nanogap, Single nucleotide mutation


Torrents, Eduard, (2014). Ribonucleotide reductases: Essential Enzymes for bacterial life Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology 4, 1-9

Ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) is a key enzyme that mediates the synthesis of deoxyribonucleotides, the DNA precursors, for DNA synthesis in every living cell. This enzyme converts ribonucleotides to deoxyribonucleotides, the building blocks for DNA replication, and repair. Clearly, RNR enzymes have contributed to the appearance of genetic material that exists today, being essential for the evolution of all organisms on Earth. The strict control of RNR activity and dNTP pool sizes is important, as pool imbalances increase mutation rates, replication anomalies, and genome instability. Thus, RNR activity should be finely regulated allosterically and at the transcriptional level. In this review we examine the distribution, the evolution, and the genetic regulation of bacterial RNRs. Moreover, this enzyme can be considered an ideal target for anti-proliferative compounds designed to inhibit cell replication in eukaryotic cells (cancer cells), parasites, viruses, and bacteria.

Keywords: Anaerobiosis, Transcription Factors, Evolution, Gene regulation, Ribonucleotide reductase, DNA Synthesis, NrdR,nrd


Yang, Cheng, Lates, Vasilica, Prieto-Simón, Beatriz, Marty, Jean-Louis, Yang, Xiurong, (2012). Aptamer-DNAzyme hairpins for biosensing of Ochratoxin A Biosensors and Bioelectronics 32, (1), 208-212

We report an aptasensor for biosensing of Ochratoxin A (OTA) using aptamer-DNAzyme hairpin as biorecognition element. The structure of this engineered nucleic acid includes the horseradish peroxidase (HRP)-mimicking DNAzyme and the OTA specific aptamer sequences. A blocking tail captures a part of these sequences in the stem region of the hairpin. In the presence of OTA, the hairpin is opened due to the formation of the aptamer–analyte complex. As a result, self-assembly of the active HRP-mimicking DNAzyme occurs. The activity of this DNAzyme is linearly correlated with OTA concentration up to 10 nM, showing a limit of detection of 2.5 nM.

Keywords: Ochratoxin A, Aptamer, G-quadruplex, DNAzyme, Hairpin


Baccar, Z.M., Caballero, D., Eritja, R., Errachid, A., (2012). Development of an impedimetric DNA-biosensor based on layered double hydroxide for the detection of long ssDNA sequences Electrochimica Acta 74, 123-129

DNA testing requires the development of sensitive and fast devices to measure the presence of nucleic acid sequences by DNA hybridization. In this paper, a simple and label-free DNA-biosensor has been investigated based on the detection of DNA hybridization on layered double hydroxide (LDH) nanomaterials with special emphasis on targeting long single stranded DNA sequences. First, the immobilization of a 20 bases long DNA probe on a thin layer of Mg2AlCO3 and Mg3AlCO3 LDH was studied. Then, DNA hybridization reaction was detected by means of Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy. The resulting biosensor showed a high sensitivity for the detection of 80 bases long DNA complementary sequences. The dynamic range was 18–270 ng/ml with a detection limit lower than 1.8 ng/ml.

Keywords: DNA-biosensor, Nanomaterials, Layered double hydroxide, Self-assembly


Castillo-Fernandez, Oscar, Salieb-Beugelaar, Georgette B., van Nieuwkasteele, Jan W., Bomer, Johan G., Arundell, Martin, Samitier, Josep, van den Berg, Albert, Eijkel, Jan C. T., (2011). Electrokinetic DNA transport in 20 nm-high nanoslits: Evidence for movement through a wall-adsorbed polymer nanogel Electrophoresis 32, (18), 2402-2409

The electrokinetic transport behavior of lambda-DNA (48 kbp) in 20 nm-high fused-silica nanoslits in the presence of short-chain PVP is investigated. Mobility and video data show a number of phenomena that are typical of DNA transport through gels or polymer solutions, thus indicative of rigid migration obstacles in the DNA pathway. Calculations show that a several nanometer thin layer of wall-adsorbed PVP ('nano-gel') can provide such a rigid obstacle matrix to the DNA. Such ultrathin wall-adsorbed polymer layers represent a new type of matrix for electrokinetic DNA separation.

Keywords: λ-DNA, Biased reptation, Caterpillar movement, Nanoslits, Pathways, PVP


Mir, Monica, Martinez-Rodriguez, Sergio, Castillo-Fernandez, Oscar, Homs-Corbera, Antoni, Samitier, Josep, (2011). Electrokinetic techniques applied to electrochemical DNA biosensors Electrophoresis 32, (8), 811-821

Electrokinetic techniques are contact-free methods currently used in many applications, where precise handling of biological entities, such as cells, bacteria or nucleic acids, is needed. These techniques are based on the effect of electric fields on molecules suspended in a fluid, and the corresponding induced motion, which can be tuned according to some known physical laws and observed behaviours. Increasing interest on the application of such strategies in order to improve the detection of DNA strands has appeared during the recent decades. Classical electrode-based DNA electrochemical biosensors with combined electrokinetic techniques present the advantage of being able to improve the working electrode's bioactive part during their fabrication and also the hybridization yield during the sensor detection phase. This can be achieved by selectively manipulating, driving and directing the molecules towards the electrodes increasing the speed and yield of the floating DNA strands attached to them. On the other hand, this technique can be also used in order to make biosensors reusable, or reconfigurable, by simply inverting its working principle and pulling DNA strands away from the electrodes. Finally, the combination of these techniques with nanostructures, such as nanopores or nanochannels, has recently boosted the appearance of new types of electrochemical sensors that exploit the time-varying position of DNA strands in order to continuously scan these molecules and to detect their properties. This review gives an insight into the main forces involved in DNA electrokinetics and discusses the state of the art and uses of these techniques in recent years.

Keywords: Electrochemical DNA biosensors, Lab-on-a-chip (LOC), Micro-total analysis systems (mu TAS), Nanopore


Barthelmebs, L., Jonca, J., Hayat, A., Prieto-Simon, B., Marty, J. L., (2011). Enzyme-Linked Aptamer Assays (ELAAs), based on a competition format for a rapid and sensitive detection of Ochratoxin A in wine Food Control 22, (5), 737-743

Ochratoxin A (OTA) is one of the most important mycotoxins because of its high toxicity to both humans and animals and its occurrence in a number of basic foods and agro-products. The need to develop high-performing methods for OTA analysis able to improve the traditional ones is evident. In this work, through in vitro SELEX (Systematic Evolution of Ligands by EXponential enrichment) two aptamers, designated H8 and H12 were produced that bind with nanomolar affinity with Ochratoxin A (OTA). Two strategies were investigated by using an indirect and a direct competitive Enzyme-Linked Aptamer Assay (ELAA) and were compared to the classical competitive Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) for the determination of OTA in spiked red wine samples. The limit of detection attained (1 ng/mL), the midpoint value obtained (5 ng/mL) and the analysis time needed (125 min) for the real sample analysis validate the direct competitive ELAA as useful screening tool for routine use in the control of OTA level in wine.

Keywords: Competitive Enzyme-Linked Aptamer Assay (ELAA), DNA aptamer, Ochratoxin A, SELEX, Wine analysis


Paytubi, S., Garcia, J., Juarez, A., (2011). Bacterial Hha-like proteins facilitate incorporation of horizontally transferred DNA Central European Journal of Biology 6, (6), 879-886

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT), non-hereditary transfer of genetic material between organisms, accounts for a significant proportion of the genetic variability in bacteria. In Gram negative bacteria, the nucleoid-associated protein H-NS silences unwanted expression of recently acquired foreign DNA. This, in turn, facilitates integration of the incoming genes into the regulatory networks of the recipient cell. Bacteria belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae express an additional protein, the Hha protein that, by binding to H-NS, potentiates silencing of HGT DNA. We provide here an overview of Hha-like proteins, including their structure and function, as well as their evolutionary relationship. We finally present available information suggesting that, by expressing Hha-like proteins, bacteria such as Escherichia coli facilitate HGT incorporation and hence, the impact of HGT in their genetic diversity.

Keywords: Hha, H-NS, HGT DNA, Enterobacteria, Nucleoid-associated proteins, Enterica serovar typhimurium, Histone-like protein, h-ns, Escherichia-coli, Yersinia-enterocolitica, Salmonella-enterica


Harder, A., Walhorn, V., Dierks, T., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Anselmetti, D., (2010). Single-molecule force spectroscopy of cartilage aggrecan self-adhesion Biophysical Journal 99, (10), 3498-3504

We investigated self-adhesion between highly negatively charged aggrecan macromolecules extracted from bovine cartilage extracellular matrix by performing atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging and single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) in saline solutions. By controlling the density of aggrecan molecules on both the gold substrate and the gold-coated tip surface at submonolayer densities, we were able to detect and quantify the Ca2+-dependent homodimeric interaction between individual aggrecan molecules at the single-molecule level. We found a typical nonlinear sawtooth profile in the AFM force-versus-distance curves with a molecular persistence length of I-p = 0.31 +/- 0.04 nm. This is attributed to the stepwise dissociation of individual glycosaminoglycan (GAG) side chains in aggrecans, which is very similar to the known force fingerprints of other cell adhesion proteoglycan systems. After studying the GAG-GAG dissociation in a dynamic, loading-rate-dependent manner (dynamic SMFS) and analyzing the data according to the stochastic Bell-Evans model for a thermally activated decay of a metastable state under an external force, we estimated for the single glycan interaction a mean lifetime of tau = 7.9 +/- 4.9 s and a reaction bond length of x(beta) = 0.31 +/- 0.08 nm. Whereas the x(beta)-value compares well with values from other cell adhesion carbohydrate recognition motifs in evolutionary distant marine sponge proteoglycans, the rather short GAG interaction lifetime reflects high intermolecular dynamics within aggrecan complexes, which may be relevant for the viscoelastic properties of cartilage tissue.

Keywords: Bovine nasal cartilage, Articular-cartilage, Sinorhizobium-meliloti, Proteoglycan, Microscopy, DNA, Macromolecules, Binding, Protein, Glycosaminoglycans


Toset, J., Gomila, G., (2010). Three-dimensional manipulation of gold nanoparticles with electro-enhanced capillary forces Applied Physics Letters 96, (4), 043117

We demonstrate the possibility to manipulate 25 nm radius gold nanoparticles in the three spatial dimensions with an atomic force microscope with the use of electroenhanced capillary forces. We show that an enhanced water-bridge can be electrostatically induced between a conducting probe and a metallic nanoparticle by the application of a voltage pulse, which is able to exert a pulling capillary force on the nanoparticle strong enough to detach it from the substrate. The nanoparticle can then be moved, attached to the probe, and placed back to the desired location on the substrate simply by contacting it.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Capillarity, Gold, Nanoparticles, Nanotechnology


Pairo, E., Marco, S., Perera, A., (2010). A subspace method for the detection of transcription factor binding sites BIOINFORMATICS 2010. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Bioinformatics BIOINFORMATICS 2010. First International Conference on Bioinformatics (ed. Fred, A., Filipe, J., Gamboa, H.), INSTICC Press (Valencia, Spain) , 102-107

Transcription Factor binding sites are short and degenerate sequences, located mostly at the promoter of the gene, where some proteins bind in order to regulate transcription. Locating these sequences is an important issue, and many experimental and computational methods have been developed. Algorithms to search binding sites are usually based on Position Specific Scoring Matrices (PSSM), where each position is treated independently. Mapping symbolical DNA to numerical sequences, a detector has been built with a Principal Component Analysis of the numerical sequences, taking into account covariances between positions. When a treatment of missing values is incorporated the Q-residuals detector, based on PCA, performs better than a PSSM algorithm. The performance on the detector depends on the estimation of missing values and the percentage of missing values considered in the model.

Keywords: Binding sites, BPCA, Missing values, Numerical DNA, Principal components analysis, Transcription factors


Banos, R. C., Vivero, A., Aznar, S., Garcia, J., Pons, M., Madrid, C., Juarez, A., (2009). Differential regulation of horizontally acquired and core genome genes by the bacterial modulator H-NS PLoS Genetics 5, (6), 8

Horizontal acquisition of DNA by bacteria dramatically increases genetic diversity and hence successful bacterial colonization of several niches, including the human host. A relevant issue is how this newly acquired DNA interacts and integrates in the regulatory networks of the bacterial cell. The global modulator H-NS targets both core genome and HGT genes and silences gene expression in response to external stimuli such as osmolarity and temperature. Here we provide evidence that H-NS discriminates and differentially modulates core and HGT DNA. As an example of this, plasmid R27-encoded H-NS protein has evolved to selectively silence HGT genes and does not interfere with core genome regulation. In turn, differential regulation of both gene lineages by resident chromosomal H-NS requires a helper protein: the Hha protein. Tight silencing of HGT DNA is accomplished by H-NS-Hha complexes. In contrast, core genes are modulated by H-NS homoligomers. Remarkably, the presence of Hha-like proteins is restricted to the Enterobacteriaceae. In addition, conjugative plasmids encoding H-NS variants have hitherto been isolated only from members of the family. Thus, the H-NS system in enteric bacteria presents unique evolutionary features. The capacity to selectively discriminate between core and HGT DNA may help to maintain horizontally transmitted DNA in silent form and may give these bacteria a competitive advantage in adapting to new environments, including host colonization.

Keywords: 2A strain 2457T, Escherichia-Coli, Salmonella-Enterica, Protein, DNA, Expression, Binding, HHA, Shigella, Plasmid


Tort, N., Salvador, J. P., Eritja, R., Poch, M., Martinez, E., Samitier, J., Marco, M. P., (2009). Fluorescence site-encoded DNA addressable hapten microarray for anabolic androgenic steroids Trac-Trends in Analytical Chemistry 28, (6), 718-728

We report a new strategy for immunochemical screening of small organic molecules based on the use of a hapten microarray. Using DNA-directed immobilization strategies, we have been able to convert a DNA chip into a hapten microarray by taking advantage of all the benefits of the structural and electrostatic homogeneous properties of DNA. The hapten microarray uses hapten-oligonucleotide probes instead of proteins, avoiding the limitations of preparing stochiometrically-defined protein-oligonucleotide bioconjugates. As proof of concept, we show here the development of a microarray for analysis of anabolic androgenic steroids. The microchip is able to detect several illegal substances with sufficient detectability to be used as a screening method, according to the regulations of the World Anti-Doping Agency for sport and the European Commision for food safety. The results that we show corroborate the universal possibilities of the DNA chip, and, in this case, they open the way to develop hapten microarrays for the immunochemical analysis of small organic molecules.

Keywords: Anti-doping, DNA chip, DNA-directed immobilization (DDI), Fluorescence, Food safety, Hapten microarray, Immunochemical screening, Proof of concept, Small organic molecule, Steroid


Pla, D., Sischka, A., Albericio, F., Alvarez, M., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., Anselmetti, D., (2009). Optical-tweezers study of topoisomerase inhibition Small 5, (11), 1269-1272

Optical tweezers force-stretching of highly nicked dsDNA, as indicated by the large hysteresis area (black and red curves). Topoisomerase activity is evidenced by a higher level plateau and a complete vanishing of the overstretching hysteresis (green curve), indicating total repair of the DNA nicks. The arrow indicates a drop in the stretching curve resulting from topoisomerase cleavage during the cycle.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, DNA, Lamellarin D, Optical tweezers, Topoisomerase


Mir, M., Cameron, P. J., Zhong, X., Azzaroni, O., Alvarez, M., Knoll, W., (2009). Anti-fouling characteristics of surface-confined oligonucleotide strands bioconjugated on streptavidin platforms in the presence of nanomaterials Talanta 78, (3), 1102-6

This work describes our studies on the molecular design of interfacial architectures suitable for DNA sensing which could resist non-specific binding of nanomaterials commonly used as labels for amplifying biorecognition events. We observed that the non-specific binding of bio-nanomaterials to surface-confined oligonucleotide strands is highly dependent on the characteristics of the interfacial architecture. Thiolated double stranded oligonucleotide arrays assembled on Au surfaces evidence significant fouling in the presence of nanoparticles (NPs) at the nanomolar level. The non-specific interaction between the oligonucleotide strands and the nanomaterials can be sensitively minimized by introducing streptavidin (SAv) as an underlayer conjugated to the DNA arrays. The role of the SAv layer was attributed to the significant hydrophilic repulsion between the SAv-modified surface and the nanomaterials in close proximity to the interface, thus conferring outstanding anti-fouling characteristics to the interfacial architecture. These results provide a simple and straightforward strategy to overcome the limitations introduced by the non-specific binding of labels to achieve reliable detection of DNA-based biorecognition events.

Keywords: DNA/ analysis, Gold, Nanostructures/ chemistry, Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis/ instrumentation, Oligonucleotides/ chemistry, Streptavidin/ chemistry, Sulfhydryl Compounds


Mir, M., Homs, A., Samitier, J., (2009). Integrated electrochemical DNA biosensors for lab-on-a-chip devices Electrophoresis 30, (19), 3386-3397

Analytical devices able to perform accurate and fast automatic DNA detection or sequencing procedures have many potential benefits in the biomedical and environmental fields. The conversion of biological or biochemical responses into quantifiable optical, mechanical or electronic signals is achieved by means of biosensors. Most of these transducing elements can be miniaturized and incorporated into lab-on-a-chip devices, also known as Micro Total Analysis Systems. The use of multiple DNA biosensors integrated in these miniaturized laboratories, which perform several analytical operations at the microscale, has many cost and efficiency advantages. Tiny amounts of reagents and samples are needed and highly sensitive, fast and parallel assays can be done at low cost. A particular type of DNA biosensors are the ones used based on electrochemical principles. These sensors offer several advantages over the popular fluorescence-based detection schemes. The resulting signal is electrical and can be processed by conventional electronics in a very cheap and fast manner. Furthermore, the integration and miniaturization of electrochemical transducers in a microsystem makes easier its fabrication in front of the most common currently used detection method. In this review, different electrochemical DNA biosensors integrated in analytical microfluidic devices are discussed and some early stage commercial products based on this strategy are presented.

Keywords: DNA, Electrochemical DNA biosensors, Electrochemistry, Lab-on-a-chip, Micro Total Analysis systems, Field-effect transistors, Sequence-specific detection, Chemical-analysis systems, Solid-state nanopores, Carbon nanotubes, Microfluidic device, Electrical detection, Hybridization, Molecules, Sensor


Banos, R. C., Pons, J. I., Madrid, C., Juarez, A., (2008). A global modulatory role for the Yersinia enterocolitica H-NS protein Microbiology 154, (5), 1281-1289

The H-NS protein plays a significant role in the modulation of gene expression in Gram-negative bacteria. Whereas isolation and characterization of hns mutants in Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Shigella represented critical steps to gain insight into the modulatory role of H-NS, it has hitherto not been possible to isolate hns mutants in Yersinia. The hns mutation is considered to be deleterious in this genus. To study the modulatory role of H-NS in Yersinia we circumvented hns lethality by expressing in Y. enterocolitica a truncated H-NS protein known to exhibit anti-H-NS activity in E. coli (H-NST(EPEC)). Y. enterocolitica cells expressing H-NST(EPEC) showed an altered growth rate and several differences in the protein expression pattern, including the ProV protein, which is modulated by H-NS in other enteric bacteria. To further confirm that H-NST(EPEC) expression in Yersinia can be used to demonstrate H-NS-dependent regulation in this genus, we used this approach to show that H-NS modulates expression of the YmoA protein.

Keywords: Bacterial Proteins/biosynthesis/genetics/ physiology, DNA-Binding Proteins/biosynthesis/genetics/ physiology, Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional, Gene Expression Profiling, Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial, Genes, Essential, Proteome/analysis, RNA, Bacterial/biosynthesis, RNA, Messenger/biosynthesis, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Sequence Deletion, Yersinia enterocolitica/chemistry/genetics/growth & development/ physiology


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