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Small-molecule detection and enantiopurity measurement using DNA-based sensors

Prof. Jen Heemstra
Prof. Jen Heemstra
Department of Chemistry
Emory University
Chemistry Building, Room 400
Organic Seminar

Nucleic acids are exquisitely adept at molecular recognition and self-assembly, enabling them to direct nearly all of the processes that make life possible. These capabilities have been fine-tuned by billions of years of evolution, and more recently, have been harnessed in the laboratory to enable the use of DNA and RNA for applications that are completely unrelated to their canonical biological roles. In our lab, we seek to use DNA and RNA for applications in biosensing and biomolecular imaging.  Specifically, we utilize DNA aptamers as recognition elements for the development of new assays for small-molecule detection and enantiopurity measurement.  This has enabled applications including the detection of small-molecule metabolites under conditions where antibody-based assays fail, and high-throughput monitoring of small-molecule enantiopurity for reaction optimization.  We have also developed RNA sequences that are capable of recognizing specific small molecule fluorophores and promoting covalent self-labeling with these fluorophores.  We anticipate use of these self-labeling ribozymes for imaging of RNA in living cells.

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