Dipole-Modulated Downconversion Nanoparticles as Label-Free Biological Sensors

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Ultrasensitive detection of proteins and biomolecules has been previously achieved by optical nanoparticles (NPs) using the principles of Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET). However, the inherent need for labeling the target analyte in these assays hinders their applicability in point-of-use (POU) diagnostics. In this work, a label-free NP-based sensor has been developed that utilizes downconversion luminescence and surface electric dipoles as a novel approach for the detection of avidin. The long-lived luminescence of Eu-doped biotinylated NPs was effectively quenched in the presence of avidin in a concentration-dependent manner. The NPs exhibited high avidin selectivity and sensitivity with a limit of detection (LOD) of 7.8 nM and a wide dynamic range spanning 1 nM to 10 μM in deionized (DI) water. The application of the assay in a complex biological matrix consisting of cell growth medium supplemented with 10% v/v serum was verified with minor effects on avidin sensitivity exhibited by an LOD of 34.7 nM. The performance of the system was evaluated by comparing the photoluminescence (PL) intensities of known avidin concentration and the values predicted by the generated calibration curve. The new biosensing strategy has the potential to be extended to the detection of other disease biomarkers or pathogens with LOD and limited matrix effects in POU settings.

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ACS sensors

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