A highly selective, colorimetric polynucleotide detection method based on mercaptoalkyloligonucleotide-modified gold nanoparticle probes is reported. Introduction of a single-stranded target oligonucleotide (30 bases) into a solution containing the appropriate probes resulted in the formation of a polymeric network of nanoparticles with a concomitant red-to- pinkish/purple color change. Hybridization was facilitated by freezing and thawing of the solutions, and the denaturation of these hybrid materials showed transition temperatures over a narrow range that allowed differentiation of a variety of imperfect targets. Transfer of the hybridization mixture to a reverse-phase silica plate resulted in a blue color upon drying that could be detected visually. The unoptimized system can detect about 10 femtomoles of an oligonucleotide.
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