Detection and identification of genetic material via single-molecule conductance

Yuanhui Li, Juan M. Artés, Busra Demir, Sumeyye Gokce, Hashem M. Mohammad, Mashari Alangari, M. P. Anantram, Ersin Emre Oren, Joshua Hihath*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The ongoing discoveries of RNA modalities (for example, non-coding, micro and enhancer) have resulted in an increased desire for detecting, sequencing and identifying RNA segments for applications in food safety, water and environmental protection, plant and animal pathology, clinical diagnosis and research, and bio-security. Here, we demonstrate that single-molecule conductance techniques can be used to extract biologically relevant information from short RNA oligonucleotides, that these measurements are sensitive to attomolar target concentrations, that they are capable of being multiplexed, and that they can detect targets of interest in the presence of other, possibly interfering, RNA sequences. We also demonstrate that the charge transport properties of RNA:DNA hybrids are sensitive to single-nucleotide polymorphisms, thus enabling differentiation between specific serotypes of Escherichia coli. Using a combination of spectroscopic and computational approaches, we determine that the conductance sensitivity primarily arises from the effects that the mutations have on the conformational structure of the molecules, rather than from the direct chemical substitutions. We believe that this approach can be further developed to make an electrically based sensor for diagnostic purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1167-1173
Number of pages7
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number12
Early online date5 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


The authors thank M. Marco, W. Ju and D. Heeney for assistance with the BLASTn databases. This work is supported by the University of California, the Davis RISE program, the National Science Foundation (NSF, CBET-1605338) and the ONR (N00014-16-1-2658). M.P.A. acknowledges support from the NSF under grant nos. 102781 (CHE) and 1231927 (ECCS). E.E.O. acknowledges support from the Turkish Academy of Sciences under TUBA GEBIP grant.

FundersFunder number
National Science FoundationCBET-1605338, 1807391, 1807555
Office of Naval Research102781, N00014-16-1-2658
Division of Chemistry1231927
University of California
Türkiye Bilimler Akademisi


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