Ultrasensitive detection of nonlabelled bovine serum albumin using photothermal optical phase shift detection with UV excitation
Ultrasensitive detection of nonlabelled bovine serum albumin is performed in micro/nanofluidic chips using a photothermal optical phase shift (POPS) detection system. Currently, micro- and nanofluidics allow the analysis of various single cells, and their targets of interest are shifting from nucleic acids to proteins. Previously, our group developed photothermal detection techniques for the sensitive detection of nonfluorescent molecules. For example, we developed a thermal lens microscope (TLM) with ultrahigh sensitivity at the single-molecule level and a POPS detector that is applicable to nanochannels smaller than the wavelength of light. The POPS detector also realized the detection of nonlabelled proteins in nanochannels, although its detection sensitivity is less than that of the TLM in microchannels due to insufficient background light reduction. To overcome this problem, we developed a new POPS detector using relay optics for further reduction of the background light. In addition, heat transfer from the sample solution to the nanochannel wall was thoroughly investigated to achieve ultrahigh sensitivity. The limit of detection (LOD) obtained with the new POPS detector is 30 molecules in 1.0 fL. Considering this LOD, the performance of the new POPS detector is comparable with that of the TLM. Owing to the applicability of the POPS detector for sensitive detection even in nanochannels or single-μm channels, which cannot be realized with the TLM, combinations of the POPS detector and separation techniques employing unique nanochannel properties will contribute to advances in single-cell proteomics in the future.