DNA-based species detection capabilities using laser transmission spectroscopy

AR Mahon, Andrew R Mahon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Early detection of invasive species is critical for effective biocontrol to mitigate potential ecological and economic damage. Laser transmission spectroscopy (LTS) is a powerful solution offering real-time, DNA-based species detection in the field. LTS can measure the size, shape and number of nanoparticles in a solution and was used here to detect size shifts resulting from hybridization of the polymerase chain reaction product to nanoparticles functionalized with species-specific oligonucleotide probes or with the species-specific oligonucleotide probes alone. We carried out a series of DNA detection experiments using the invasive freshwater quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis) to evaluate the capability of the LTS platform for invasive species detection. Specifically, we tested LTS sensitivity to (i) DNA concentrations of a single target species, (ii) the presence of a target species within a mixed sample of other closely related species, (iii) species-specific functionalized nanoparticles versus species-specific oligonucleotide probes alone, and (iv) amplified DNA fragments versus unamplified genomic DNA. We demonstrate that LTS is a highly sensitive technique for rapid target species detection, with detection limits in the picomolar range, capable of successful identification in multispecies samples containing target and non-target species DNA. These results indicate that the LTS DNA detection platform will be useful for field application of target species. Additionally, we find that LTS detection is effective with species-specific oligonucleotide tags alone or when they are attached to polystyrene nanobeads and with both amplified and unamplified DNA, indicating that the technique may also have versatility for broader applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20120637
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number78
StatePublished - 2013


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