Honors & Awards
NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship, The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) (2013-2015)
Bachelor of Science, Carleton University (2007)
Doctor of Philosophy, Carleton University (2012)
Christina Smolke, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Kinetic and equilibrium binding characterization of aptamers to small molecules using a label-free, sensitive, and scalable platform.
2014; 86 (7): 3273-3278
Nucleic acid aptamers function as versatile sensing and targeting agents for analytical, diagnostic, therapeutic, and gene-regulatory applications, but their limited characterization and functional validation have hindered their broader implementation. We report the development of a surface plasmon resonance-based platform for rapid characterization of kinetic and equilibrium binding properties of aptamers to small molecules. Our system is label-free and scalable and enables analysis of different aptamer-target pairs and binding conditions with the same platform. This method demonstrates improved sensitivity, flexibility, and stability compared to other aptamer characterization methods. We validated our assay against previously reported aptamer affinity and kinetic measurements and further characterized a diverse panel of 12 small molecule-binding RNA and DNA aptamers. We report the first kinetic characterization for six of these aptamers and affinity characterization of two others. This work is the first example of direct comparison of in vitro selected and natural aptamers using consistent characterization conditions, thus providing insight into the influence of environmental conditions on aptamer binding kinetics and affinities, indicating different possible regulatory strategies used by natural aptamers, and identifying potential in vitro selection strategies to improve resulting binding affinities.
View details for DOI 10.1021/ac5001527
View details for PubMedID 24548121
Selection and characterization of a novel DNA aptamer for label-free fluorescence biosensing of ochratoxin a.
2014; 6 (8): 2435-2452
Nucleic acid aptamers are emerging as useful molecular recognition tools for food safety monitoring. However, practical and technical challenges limit the number and diversity of available aptamer probes that can be incorporated into novel sensing schemes. This work describes the selection of novel DNA aptamers that bind to the important food contaminant ochratoxin A (OTA). Following 15 rounds of in vitro selection, sequences were analyzed for OTA binding. Two of the isolated aptamers demonstrated high affinity binding and selectivity to this mycotoxin compared to similar food adulterants. These sequences, as well as a truncated aptamer (minimal sequence required for binding), were incorporated into a SYBR® Green I fluorescence-based OTA biosensing scheme. This label-free detection platform is capable of rapid, selective, and sensitive OTA quantification with a limit of detection of 9 nM and linear quantification up to 100 nM.
View details for DOI 10.3390/toxins6082435
View details for PubMedID 25153252
- Development of a DNA aptamer for direct and selective homocysteine detection in human serum RSC ADVANCES 2013; 3 (46): 24415-24422
Aptamer base: a collaborative knowledge base to describe aptamers and SELEX experiments
DATABASE-THE JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL DATABASES AND CURATION
Over the past several decades, rapid developments in both molecular and information technology have collectively increased our ability to understand molecular recognition. One emerging area of interest in molecular recognition research includes the isolation of aptamers. Aptamers are single-stranded nucleic acid or amino acid polymers that recognize and bind to targets with high affinity and selectivity. While research has focused on collecting aptamers and their interactions, most of the information regarding experimental methods remains in the unstructured and textual format of peer reviewed publications. To address this, we present the Aptamer Base, a database that provides detailed, structured information about the experimental conditions under which aptamers were selected and their binding affinity quantified. The open collaborative nature of the Aptamer Base provides the community with a unique resource that can be updated and curated in a decentralized manner, thereby accommodating the ever evolving field of aptamer research. DATABASE URL: http://aptamer.freebase.com.
View details for DOI 10.1093/database/bas006
View details for Web of Science ID 000304920200004
View details for PubMedID 22434840
Challenges and opportunities for small molecule aptamer development.
Journal of nucleic acids
2012; 2012: 748913-?
Aptamers are single-stranded oligonucleotides that bind to targets with high affinity and selectivity. Their use as molecular recognition elements has emerged as a viable approach for biosensing, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Despite this potential, relatively few aptamers exist that bind to small molecules. Small molecules are important targets for investigation due to their diverse biological functions as well as their clinical and commercial uses. Novel, effective molecular recognition probes for these compounds are therefore of great interest. This paper will highlight the technical challenges of aptamer development for small molecule targets, as well as the opportunities that exist for their application in biosensing and chemical biology.
View details for DOI 10.1155/2012/748913
View details for PubMedID 23150810
Screening and Initial Binding Assessment of Fumonisin B-1 Aptamers
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR SCIENCES
2010; 11 (12): 4864-4881
Fumonisins are mycotoxins produced by Fusarium verticillioides and F. proliferatum, fungi that are ubiquitous in corn (maize). Insect damage and some other environmental conditions result in the accumulation of fumonisins in corn-based products worldwide. Current methods of fumonisin detection rely on the use of immunoaffinity columns and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The use of aptamers offers a good alternative to the use of antibodies in fumonisin cleanup and detection due to lower costs and improved stability. Aptamers are single-stranded oligonucleotides that are selected using Systematic Evolution of Ligands by EXponential enrichment (SELEX) for their ability to bind to targets with high affinity and specificity. Sequences obtained after 18 rounds of SELEX were screened for their ability to bind to fumonisin B(1). Six unique sequences were obtained, each showing improved binding to fumonisin B(1) compared to controls. Sequence FB(1) 39 binds to fumonisin with a dissociation constant of 100 ± 30 nM and shows potential for use in fumonisin biosensors and solid phase extraction columns.
View details for DOI 10.3390/ijms11124864
View details for Web of Science ID 000285708000006
View details for PubMedID 21614178
Computational approaches toward the design of pools for the in vitro selection of complex aptamers
RNA-A PUBLICATION OF THE RNA SOCIETY
2010; 16 (11): 2252-2262
It is well known that using random RNA/DNA sequences for SELEX experiments will generally yield low-complexity structures. Early experimental results suggest that having a structurally diverse library, which, for instance, includes high-order junctions, may prove useful in finding new functional motifs. Here, we develop two computational methods to generate sequences that exhibit higher structural complexity and can be used to increase the overall structural diversity of initial pools for in vitro selection experiments. Random Filtering selectively increases the number of five-way junctions in RNA/DNA pools, and Genetic Filtering designs RNA/DNA pools to a specified structure distribution, whether uniform or otherwise. We show that using our computationally designed DNA pool greatly improves access to highly complex sequence structures for SELEX experiments (without losing our ability to select for common one-way and two-way junction sequences).
View details for DOI 10.1261/rna.2102210
View details for Web of Science ID 000283047900020
View details for PubMedID 20870801