We describe a novel biosensor based on phospholipid-coated nematic liquid crystal (LC) droplets and demonstrate the detection of Smp43, a model antimicrobial peptide (AMP) from the venom of North African scorpion Scorpio maurus palmatus. Mono-disperse lipid-coated LC droplets of diameter 16.7 ± 0.2 μm were generated using PDMS microfluidic devices with a flow-focusing configuration and were the target for AMPs. The droplets were trapped in a bespoke microfluidic trap structure and were simultaneously treated with Smp43 at gradient concentrations in six different chambers. The disruption of the lipid monolayer by the Smp43 was detected (<6 μM) at concentrations well within its biologically active range, indicated by a dramatic change in the appearance of the droplets associated with the transition from a typical radial configuration to a bipolar configuration, which is readily observed by polarizing microscopy. This suggests the system has feasibility as a drug-discovery screening tool. Further, compared to previously reported LC droplet biosensors, this LC droplet biosensor with a lipid coating is more biologically relevant and its ease of use in detecting membrane-related biological processes and interactions has the potential for development as a reliable, low-cost and disposable point of care diagnostic tool.
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