Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 411, Issue 26, pp 6995–7003 | Cite as

Novel probes for label-free detection of neurodegenerative GGGGCC repeats associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

  • Motahareh Taki
  • Kushal J. Rohilla
  • Maria Barton
  • Madison Funneman
  • Najiyah Benzabeh
  • Swati Naphade
  • Lisa M. Ellerby
  • Keith T. Gagnon
  • Mohtashim H. ShamsiEmail author
Research Paper


DNA repeat expansion sequences cause a myriad of neurological diseases when they expand beyond a critical threshold. Previous electrochemical approaches focused on the detection of trinucleotide repeats (CAG, CGG, and GAA) and relied on labeling of the probe and/or target strands or enzyme-linked assays. However, detection of expanded GC-rich sequences is challenging because they are prone to forming secondary structures such as cruciforms and quadruplexes. Here, we present label-free detection of hexanucleotide GGGGCC repeat sequences, which cause the leading genetic form of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The approach relies on capturing targets by surface-bound oligonucleotide probes with a different number of complementary repeats, which proportionately translates the length of the target strands into charge transfer resistance (RCT) signal measured by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. The probe carrying three tandem repeats transduces the number of repeats into RCT with a 3× higher calibration sensitivity and detection limit. Chronocoulometric measurements show a decrease in surface density with increasing repeat length, which is opposite of the impedance trend. This implies that the length of the target itself can contribute to amplification of the impedance signal independent of the surface density. Moreover, the probe can distinguish between a control and patient sequences while remaining insensitive to non-specific Huntington’s disease (CAG) repeats in the presence of a complementary target. This label-free strategy might be applied to detect the length of other neurodegenerative repeat sequences using short probes with a few complementary repeats.

Graphical abstract

Short oligomeric probes with multiple complementary repeats detect long neurodegenerative targets with high sensitivity and transduce into higher impedance signal.


Nucleic acid biosensing Electrochemical biosensors Repeat expansion disorders Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy 


Funding information

M.H. Shamsi acknowledges SIUC startup funds for the research. L.M. Ellerby acknowledges R01 NS100529 grant. Funding to K.T.G. was provided by an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Research Program (ALSRP) grant from the US Department of Defense.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

216_2019_2075_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (264 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 263 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Motahareh Taki
    • 1
  • Kushal J. Rohilla
    • 2
  • Maria Barton
    • 2
  • Madison Funneman
    • 1
  • Najiyah Benzabeh
    • 1
  • Swati Naphade
    • 3
  • Lisa M. Ellerby
    • 3
  • Keith T. Gagnon
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mohtashim H. Shamsi
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry & BiochemistrySouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA
  2. 2.Biochemistry and Molecular BiologySouthern Illinois University School of MedicineCarbondaleUSA
  3. 3.The Buck Institute for Research on AgingNovatoUSA

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