Sequence-Specific Capture of Oligonucleotide Probes (SCOPE): a Simple and Rapid Microbial rRNA Quantification Method Using a Molecular Weight Cutoff Membrane

Yasuyuki Takemura, Yuji Sekiguchi, Kazuaki Syutsubo, Hideki Harada, Tatsuo Omura, Yu You Li, Kengo Kubota

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A method named sequence-specific capture of oligonucleotide probes (SCOPE) was developed for quantification of microbial rRNA molecules in a multiplex manner. In this method, a molecular weight cutoff membrane (MWCOM) was used for the separation of fluorescence-labeled oligonucleotide probes hybridized with rRNA from free unhybridized probes. To demonstrate proof of concept, probes targeting bacteria or archaea at different taxonomic levels were prepared and were hybridized with rRNAs. The hybridization stringency was controlled by adjusting reaction temperature and urea concentration in the mixture. Then, the mixture was filtered through the MWCOM. The rRNA and hybridized probes collected on the MWCOM were recovered and quantified using a spectrophotometer and fluorospectrometer, respectively. The method showed high accuracy in detecting specific microbial rRNA in a defined nucleic acid mixture. Furthermore, the method was capable of simultaneous detection and quantification of multiple target rRNAs in a sample with sensitivity up to a single-base mismatch. The SCOPE method was tested and benchmarked against reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) for the quantification of Bacteria, Archaea, and some key methanogens in anaerobic sludge samples. It was observed that the SCOPE method produced more reliable and coherent results. Thus, the SCOPE method allows simple and rapid detection and quantification of target microbial rRNAs for environmental microbial population analysis without any need for enzymatic reactions. IMPORTANCE Microorganisms play integral roles in the Earth's ecosystem. Microbial populations and their activities significantly affect the global nutrient cycles. Quantification of key microorganisms provides important information that is required to understand their roles in the environment. Sequence-based analysis of microbial population is a powerful tool, but it provides information only on relative abundance of microorganisms. Hence, the development of a simpler and quick method for the quantification of microorganisms is necessary. To address the shortcomings of a variety of molecular methods reported so far, we developed a simple, rapid, accurate, and multiplexed microbial rRNA quantification method to evaluate the abundance of specific microbial populations in complex ecosystems. This method demonstrated high specificity, reproducibility, and applicability to such samples. The method is useful for quantitative detection of particular microbial members in the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Sept
Externally publishedYes


  • molecular weight cutoff membrane
  • rRNA quantification method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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