A polymer-based electrode capable of specific detection of human serum albumin, and its glycated derivatives, is described. The sensor is constructed from a glass microscope slide coated with a synthesized, polythiophene film bearing a protected, iminodiacetic acid motif. The electrode surface is then further elaborated to a functional biosensor through deprotection of the iminodiacetic acid, followed by metal-affinity immobilization of a specific and high-affinity, albumin ligand. Albumin was then quantified in buffer and synthetic urine via electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. Glycated albumin was next bound to a boronic acid-modified, single-cysteine dihydrofolate reductase variant to quantify glycation ratios by square-wave voltammetry. The platform offers high sensitivity, specificity, and reproducibility in an inexpensive arrangement. The detection limits exceed the requirements for intermediate-term glycemic control monitoring in diabetes patients at 5 and 1 nM for albumin and its glycated forms, respectively.

The virus bioresistor (VBR) is a chemiresistor that directly transfers information from virus particles to an electrical circuit. Specifically, the VBR enables the label-free detection of a target protein that is recognized and bound by filamentous M13 virus particles, each with dimensions of 6 nm ( w) × 1 μm ( l), entrained in an ultrathin (∼250 nm) composite virus-polymer resistor. Signal produced by the specific binding of virus to target molecules is monitored using the electrical impedance of the VBR: The VBR presents a complex impedance that is modeled by an equivalent circuit containing just three circuit elements: a solution resistance ( Rsoln), a channel resistance ( RVBR), and an interfacial capacitance ( CVBR). The value of RVBR, measured across 5 orders of magnitude in frequency, is increased by the specific recognition and binding of a target protein to the virus particles in the resistor, producing a signal Δ RVBR. The VBR concept is demonstrated using a model system in which human serum albumin (HSA, 66 kDa) is detected in a phosphate buffer solution. The VBR cleanly discriminates between a change in the electrical resistance of the buffer, measured by Rsoln, and selective binding of HSA to virus particles, measured by RVBR. The Δ RVBR induced by HSA binding is as high as 200 Ω, contributing to low sensor-to-sensor coefficients-of-variation (<15%) across the entire calibration curve for HSA from 7.5 nM to 900 nM. The response time for the VBR is 3-30 s.

The label-free detection of human serum albumin (HSA) in aqueous buffer is demonstrated using a simple, monolithic, two-electrode electrochemical biosensor. In this device, both millimeter-scale electrodes are coated with a thin layer of a composite containing M13 virus particles and the electronically conductive polymer poly(3,4-ethylenedioxy thiophene) or PEDOT. These virus particles, engineered to selectively bind HSA, serve as receptors in this biosensor. The resistance component of the electrical impedance, Zre, measured between these two electrodes provides electrical transduction of HSA binding to the virus-PEDOT film. The analysis of sample volumes as small as 50 μL is made possible using a microfluidic cell. Upon exposure to HSA, virus-PEDOT films show a prompt increase in Zrewithin 5 s and a stable Zre signal within 15 min. HSA concentrations in the range from 100 nM to 5 μM are detectable. Sensor-to-sensor reproducibility of the HSA measurement is characterized by a coefficient-of-variance (COV) ranging from 2% to 8% across this entire concentration range. In addition, virus-PEDOT sensors successfully detected HSA in synthetic urine solutions.

Long fascinating to biologists, viruses offer nanometer-scale benchtops for building molecular-scale devices and materials. Virusestolerate a wide range of chemical modifications including reaction conditions, pH values, and temperatures. Recent examples of nongenetic manipulation of viral surfaces have extended viruses into applications ranging from biomedical imaging, drug delivery, tissue regeneration, and biosensors to materials for catalysis and energy generation. Chemical reactions on the phage surface include both covalent and noncovalent modifications, including some applied in conjunction with genetic modifications. Here, we survey viruseschemically augmented with capabilities limited only by imagination.

Mohan, K., Weiss, G.A. (2015). Engineering chemically modified viruses for prostate cancer cell recognition. Mol. Biosyst. 11: 3264-3272. This article is part of themed collection: Chemical Biology in Molecular BioSystems and 2015 Hot Articles in Molecular BioSystems. 

Specific detection of circulating tumor cells and characterization of their aggressiveness could improve cancer diagnostics and treatment. Metastasis results from such tumor cells, and causes the majority of cancer deaths. Chemically modified viruses could provide an inexpensive and efficient approach to detect tumor cells and quantitate their cell surface biomarkers. However, non-specific adhesion between the cell surface receptors and the virus surface presents a challenge. This report describes wrapping the virus surface with different PEG architectures, including as fusions to oligolysine, linkers, spacers and scaffolded ligands. The reported PEG wrappers can reduce by >75% the non-specific adhesion of phage to cell surfaces. Dynamic light scattering verified the non-covalent attachment by the reported wrappers as increased sizes of the virus particles. Further modifications resulted in specific detection of prostate cancer cells expressing PSMA, a key prostate cancer biomarker. The approach allowed quantification of PSMA levels on the cell surface, and could distinguish more aggressive forms of the disease.

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