Gold-sputtered microelectrodes with built-in gold reference and counter electrodes for electrochemical DNA detection†
Gold-sputtered microelectrodes with built-in gold reference and counter electrodes represent a promising platform for the development of disposable DNA sensors. Pretreating gold electrode surfaces and immobilization of DNA thereon is commonly employed in biosensing applications. However, with no scientific or practical guidelines to prepare a DNA sensor using these miniature gold-sputtered microelectrodes, cleaning and immobilization steps need to be systematically optimized and updated. In this work, we present efficient cleaning and modification of miniaturized gold-sputtered microelectrodes with thiolated DNA probes for DNA detection. Additional discussions on subtleties and nuances involved at each stage of pretreating and modifying gold-sputtered microelectrodes are included to present a robust, well-founded protocol. It was evident that the insights on cleaning polycrystalline gold disk electrodes with a benchmark electrode surface for DNA sensors, cannot be transferred to clean these miniature gold-sputtered microelectrodes. Therefore, a comparison between five different cleaning protocols was made to find the optimal one for gold-sputtered microelectrodes. Additionally, two principally different immobilization techniques for gold-sputtered microelectrode modification with thiolated ssDNA were compared i.e., immobilization through passive chemisorption and potential perturbation were compared in terms of thiol-specific attachment and thiol-unspecific adsorption through nitrogenous bases. The hybridization performance of these prepared electrodes was characterized by their sensitive complementary DNA capturing ability, detected by a standard alkaline phosphatase assay. Immobilization through passive chemisorption proved to be efficient in capturing the complementary target DNA with a detection limit of 0.14 nM and sensitivity of 9.38 A M−1 cm2. In general, this work presents a comprehensive understanding of cleaning, modification and performance of gold-sputtered microelectrodes with built-in gold reference and counter electrodes for both fundamental investigations and practical DNA sensing applications.