Label-free study of the function of ion channel protein on a microfluidic optical sensor integrated with artificial cell membrane†
A label-free optical sensor was constructed by integrating pH sensing material and supported phospholipid bilayers (SPBs) in a microfluidic chip. The pH sensing material was composed of a double layer structure consisting of chitosan hydrogel and electrochemically etched porous silicon. The pH change in the microchip could induce a reversible swelling of the chitosan hydrogel layer and consequently caused a shift in effective optical thickness (EOT) of the double layer, which could be observed by Fourier transformed reflectometric interference spectroscopy (FT-RIS). After phospholipid bilayers (PLBs) were self-assembled on the sensing layer, the EOT almost remained constant during the cycling of pH from 7.4 to 6.2, indicating the blockage of H+ translocation by the PLBs. For studying the behavior of ion channel protein, gramicidin A, a typical ion channel protein, was inserted in the SPBs for mimicking the ion transportation function of cell membrane. Due to the H+ transportation capability of gramicidin A, the optical response to pH change could partially recover. In the presence of Ca2+, the pore of the ion channel protein was blocked, causing a significant decrease in the EOT response upon pH change. The bio-functionalized microfluidic sensor fabricated in this work will provide a reliable platform for studying the function of ion channel protein, which is an important class of drug targets.