Small molecule detection by surface plasmon resonance: improvements in sensitivity and kinetic measurement

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Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) has emerged as a popular technique for elucidating subtle signals from biological events in a label-free, high throughput environment. The efficacy of conventional SPR sensors, whose

Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) has emerged as a popular technique for elucidating subtle signals from biological events in a label-free, high throughput environment. The efficacy of conventional SPR sensors, whose signals are mass-sensitive, diminishes rapidly with the size of the observed target molecules. The following work advances the current SPR sensor paradigm for the purpose of small molecule detection. The detection limits of two orthogonal components of SPR measurement are targeted: speed and sensitivity. In the context of this report, speed refers to the dynamic range of measured kinetic rate constants, while sensitivity refers to the target molecule mass limitation of conventional SPR measurement. A simple device for high-speed microfluidic delivery of liquid samples to a sensor surface is presented to address the temporal limitations of conventional SPR measurement. The time scale of buffer/sample switching is on the order of milliseconds, thereby minimizing the opportunity for sample plug dispersion. The high rates of mass transport to and from the central microfluidic sensing region allow for SPR-based kinetic analysis of binding events with dissociation rate constants (kd) up to 130 s-1. The required sample volume is only 1 μL, allowing for minimal sample consumption during high-speed kinetic binding measurement. Charge-based detection of small molecules is demonstrated by plasmonic-based electrochemical impedance microscopy (P-EIM). The dependence of surface plasmon resonance (SPR) on surface charge density is used to detect small molecules (60-120 Da) printed on a dextran-modified sensor surface. The SPR response to an applied ac potential is a function of the surface charge density. This optical signal is comprised of a dc and an ac component, and is measured with high spatial resolution. The amplitude and phase of local surface impedance is provided by the ac component. The phase signal of the small molecules is a function of their charge status, which is manipulated by the pH of a solution. This technique is used to detect and distinguish small molecules based on their charge status, thereby circumventing the mass limitation (~100 Da) of conventional SPR measurement.