Roey Elnathan , Moria Kwiat , Alexander Pevzner , Yoni Engel , Larisa Burstein , Artium Khatchtourints §, Amir Lichtenstein, Raisa Kantaev , and Fernando Patolsky *


September 10, 2012


Detection of biological species is of great importance to numerous areas of medical and life sciences from the diagnosis of diseases to the discovery of new drugs. Essential to the detection mechanism is the transduction of a signal associated with the specific recognition of biomolecules of interest. Nanowire-based electrical devices have been demonstrated as a powerful sensing platform for the highly sensitive detection of a wide-range of biological and chemical species. Yet, detecting biomolecules in complex biosamples of high ionic strength (>100 mM) is severely hampered by ionic screening effects. As a consequence, most of existing nanowire sensors operate under low ionic strength conditions, requiring ex situ biosample manipulation steps, that is, desalting processes. Here, we demonstrate an effective approach for the direct detection of biomolecules in untreated serum, based on the fragmentation of antibody-capturing units. Size-reduced antibody fragments permit the biorecognition event to occur in closer proximity to the nanowire surface, falling within the charge-sensitive Debye screening length. Furthermore, we explored the effect of antibody surface coverage on the resulting detection sensitivity limit under the high ionic strength conditions tested and found that lower antibody surface densities, in contrary to high antibody surface coverage, leads to devices of greater sensitivities. Thus, the direct and sensitive detection of proteins in untreated serum and blood samples was effectively performed down to the sub-pM concentration range without the requirement of biosamples manipulation.