Selective Detection of Target Proteins by Peptide-Enabled Graphene Biosensor

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Abstract

Direct molecular detection of biomarkers is a promising approach for diagnosis and monitoring of numerous diseases, as well as a cornerstone of modern molecular medicine and drug discovery. Currently, clinical applications of biomarkers are limited by the sensitivity, complexity and low selectivity of available indirect detection methods. Electronic 1D and 2D nano-materials such as carbon nanotubes and graphene, respectively, offer unique advantages as sensing substrates for simple, fast and ultrasensitive detection of biomolecular binding. Versatile methods, however, have yet to be developed for simultaneous functionalization and passivation of the sensor surface to allow for enhanced detection and selectivity of the device. Herein, we demonstrate selective detection of a model protein against a background of serum protein using a graphene sensor functionalized via self-assembling multifunctional short peptides. The two peptides are engineered to bind to graphene and undergo co-assembly in the form of an ordered monomolecular film on the substrate. While the probe peptide displays the bioactive molecule, the passivating peptide prevents non-specific protein adsorption onto the device surface, ensuring target selectivity. In particular, we demonstrate a graphene field effect transistor (gFET) biosensor which can detect streptavidin against a background of serum bovine albumin at less than 50 ng/ml. Our nano-sensor design, allows us to restore the graphene surface and utilize each sensor in multiple experiments. The peptide-enabled gFET device has great potential to address a variety of bio-sensing problems, such as studying ligand-receptor interactions, or detection of biomarkers in a clinical setting.

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