• DNAzymes;
  • intramolecular probes;
  • fluorescent probes;
  • lead;
  • telomerase


Human telomerase is a polymerase enzyme that adds tandem repeats of DNA (TTAGGG) in the telomeric region to the ends of chromosomes. Since telomerase can be detected in immortalized, but not normal, somatic cells, it has been considered a selective target for cancer chemotherapy. Here, we describe a DNAzyme-based probe to detect the presence of telomerase in cell lysates. Telomerase elongates the primer site on the probe. Subsequent addition of the PbII cofactor activates the DNAzyme, which cleaves the elongated fragment at the RNA site, releasing the probe for repetitive cycling and signal amplification. The cleaved fragment is detected by a reporter molecular beacon. Enzymatic amplification with rapid turnover allows detection of telomerase in the range of 0.1 to 1 μg cell lysate, with a fivefold increase in signal level for cancer cells over normal cells. This probe design can provide a simple, yet rapid and sensitive, measurement of telomerase activity.