Programmable RNA detection with a fluorescent RNA aptamer using optimized three-way junction formation

Yuichi Furuhata, Mizuki Kobayashi, Ryo Maruyama, Yusuke Sato, Kurumi Makino, Tatsuo Michiue, Hiroharu Yui, Seiichi Nishizawa, Keitaro Yoshimoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


RNAs play essential roles in various cellular processes and can be used as biomarkers. Hence, it is important to detect endogenous RNA for understanding diverse cellular functions and diagnosing diseases. To construct a low-cost and easy-to-use RNA detection probe, a chemically unmodified RNA aptamer that binds to a pro-fluorophore to increase its fluorescence is desirable. Here, we focused on Broccoli, a superior variant of Spinach, which is a well-known fluorescent RNA aptamer that binds to DFHBI-1T and emits green fluorescence. We experimentally characterized Broccoli and predicted that it forms a G-quadruplex–based DFHBI-1T recognition region sandwiched between two stems. Based on this, we designed a Broccoli-based RNA detection probe (BRD probe) composed of a sequence of destabilized Broccoli fused with complementary sequences against target RNA. The resulting probe with its target RNA formed a stable three-way junction, named the MT2 three-way junction, which contributed to efficient refolding of the Broccoli structure and allowed for programmable RNA detection with high signal-to-noise ratio and sensitivity. Interestingly, the MT2 three-way junction also could be applied to probe construction of a truncated form of Spinach (Baby Spinach). The BRD and Baby Spinach–based RNA detection probes (BSRD probe) exhibited up to 48- and 140-fold fluorescence enhancements in the presence of their target RNAs and detected small amounts of target RNA that were as low as 160 and 5 nM, respectively. Thus, we experimentally characterized the higher order structure of Broccoli and developed structure-switching aptamer probes for highly sensitive, programmable, RNA detection using an MT2 three-way junction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-599
Number of pages10
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May


  • Baby Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Fluorescent RNA
  • RNA sensor
  • Three-way junction


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