Colorimetric detection of DNA, small molecules, proteins, and ions using unmodified gold nanoparticles and conjugated polyelectrolytes

We have demonstrated a novel sensing strategy employing single-stranded probe DNA, unmodified gold nanoparticles, and a positively charged, water-soluble conjugated polyelectrolyte to detect a broad range of targets including nucleic acid (DNA) sequences, proteins, small molecules, and inorganic ions. This nearly “universal” biosensor approach is based on the observation that, while the conjugated polyelectrolyte specifically inhibits the ability of single-stranded DNA to prevent the aggregation of gold-nanoparticles, no such inhibition is observed with double-stranded or otherwise “folded” DNA structures. Colorimetric assays employing this mechanism for the detection of hybridization are sensitive and convenient—picomolar concentrations of target DNA are readily detected with the naked eye, and the sensor works even when challenged with complex sample matrices such as blood serum. Likewise, by employing the binding-induced folding or association of aptamers we have generalized the approach to the specific and convenient detection of proteins, small molecules, and inorganic ions. Finally, this new biosensor approach is quite straightforward and can be completed in minutes without significant equipment or training overhead

Xia, F., Zuo, X., Yang, R., Xiao, Y., Kang, D., Vallée-Bélisle, A., Gong, X., Yuen, J.D., Hsu, B.Y., Heeger, A., Plaxco, K.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume: 107
Number: 24
Pages: 10837-10841
Date: June, 2010
ICB Affiliated Authors: Alan J Heeger, Kevin W Plaxco