Selective single molecule nanopore sensing of proteins using DNA aptamer-functionalised gold nanoparticles
Single molecule detection methods, such as nanopore sensors have found increasing importance in applications ranging from gaining a better understanding of biophysical processes to technology driven solutions such as DNA sequencing. However, challenges remain especially in relation to improving selectivity to probe specific targets or to alternatively enable detection of smaller molecules such as small-sized proteins with a sufficiently high signal-to-noise ratio. In this article, we propose a solution to these technological challenges by using DNA aptamer-modified gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) that act as a molecular carrier through the nanopore sensor. We show that this approach offers numerous advantages including: high levels of selectivity, efficient capture from a complex mixture, enhanced signal, minimized analyte-sensor surface interactions, and finally can be used to enhance the event detection rate. This is demonstrated by incorporating a lysozyme binding aptamer to a 5 nm AuNP carrier to selectively probe lysozyme within a cocktail of proteins. We show that nanopores can reveal sub-complex molecular information, by discriminating the AuNP from the protein analyte, indicating the potential use of this technology for single molecule analysis of different molecular analytes specifically bound to AuNP.