Major differences in the behaviour of carbon paste and carbon fibre electrodes in a protein–lipid matrix: implications for voltammetry in vivo
The widely documented differences in behaviour of carbon fibre electrodes (CFEs) and carbon paste electrodes (CPEs) used for neurochemical analysis in vivo were investigated. Differential staircase voltammetry was used to study the electrooxidation of ascorbic acid (AA) at CFEs and CPEs in the presence of major constituents of brain tissue, viz., protein, lipid or a mixture of both. Both electrode types were poisoned by protein, reflected in positive shifts in the AA voltammetric peak potential, and also peak broadening, following exposure of the electrodes to protein solution. In contrast, CFEs and CPEs responded very differently to exposure to lipid suspension: CFEs exhibited poisoning whereas CPEs showed enhanced electron transfer kinetics for AA. This significant difference in the response of the two carbon materials to lipid was further demonstrated by showing that lipid could reverse the poisoning caused by protein for CPEs but not CFEs. It appears, therefore, that proteins adsorb on both CPEs and CFEs, hindering electron transfer from AA to the electrode surface. Surfactant lipid molecules, in contrast, have a cleaning effect on CPEs, removing pasting oil and adsorbed proteins from the CPE surface. These results provide an explanation for the stability of CPEs in brain tissue and for the contrasting instability of CFEs in the same environment. The data also suggest that a lipid–protein matrix represents a valuable in vitro chemical model of brain tissue that should allow a truer characterisation in vitro of new and existing in vivo sensors, reducing the need for animal experiments in these studies.