The present invention provides functional nucleic acid probes, and methods of using functional nucleic acid probes, for binding a target to carry out a desired function. The probes have at least one functional nucleic acid, at least one regulating nucleic acid, and at least one attenuator. The functional nucleic acid is maintained in an inactive state by the attenuator and activated by the regulating nucleic acid only in the presence of a regulating nucleic acid target. In its activated state the functional nucleic acid can bind to its target to carry out a desired function, such as generating a signal, cleaving a nucleic acid, or catalyzing a reaction.
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