High-resolution near-infrared imaging of DNA microarrays with time-resolved acquisition of fluorescence lifetimes

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Ultrasensitive, near-infrared (NIR), time-resolved fluorescence is evaluated as a detection method for reading DNA hybridization events on solid surfaces for microarray applications. In addition, the potential of mulitiplexed analyses using time-resolved identification protocols is described. To carry out this work, a NIR time-resolved confocal imager was constructed to read fluorescence signatures from the arrays. The device utilized a 780-nm pulsed diode laser, a single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD), and a high-numerical-aperture microscope objective mounted in an epi-illumination format. Due to the small size of the components that are required to construct this imager, the entire detector could easily be mounted on high-resolution translational stages and scanned over the stationary arrays. The instrument response function of the device was determined to be 275 ps (fwhm), which is adequate for measuring fluorophores with subnanosecond lifetimes. To characterize the system, NIR dyes were deposited directly on different substrate materials typically used for DNA microarrays, and the fluorescence lifetimes of two representative dyes were measured. The fluorescence lifetime for aluminum tetrasulfonated naphthalocyanine was found to be 1.92 ns, and a value of 1.21 ns was determined for the tricarbocyanine dye, IRD800, when it was deposited onto poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and measured in the dry state. Finally, the imager was used to monitor hybridization events using probe oligonucleotides chemically tethered to a PMMA substrate via a glutardialdehyde linkage to an aminated-PMMA surface. The limit of detection for oligonucleotides containing a NIR fluorescent reporter was determined to be 0.38 molecules/μm2, with this detection limit improving by a factor of 10 when a time-gate was implemented. Fluorescence lifetime analysis of the hybridization events on PMMA indicated a lifetime value of 1.23 ns for the NIR-labeled oligonucleotides when using maximum-likelihood estimators.

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Analytical Chemistry

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