The Effects of Three-Dimensional Ligand Immobilization on Kinetic Measurements in Biosensors

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The field of biosensing is in constant evolution, propelled by the need for sensitive, reliable platforms that provide consistent results, especially in the drug development industry, where small molecule characterization is of uttermost relevance. Kinetic characterization of small biochemicals is particularly challenging, and has required sensor developers to find solutions to compensate for the lack of sensitivity of their instruments. In this regard, surface chemistry plays a crucial role. The ligands need to be efficiently immobilized on the sensor surface, and probe distribution, maintenance of their native structure and efficient diffusion of the analyte to the surface need to be optimized. In order to enhance the signal generated by low molecular weight targets, surface plasmon resonance sensors utilize a high density of probes on the surface by employing a thick dextran matrix, resulting in a three-dimensional, multilayer distribution of molecules. Despite increasing the binding signal, this method can generate artifacts, due to the diffusion dependence of surface binding, affecting the accuracy of measured affinity constants. On the other hand, when working with planar surface chemistries, an incredibly high sensitivity is required for low molecular weight analytes, and furthermore the standard method for immobilizing single layers of molecules based on self-assembled monolayers (SAM) of epoxysilane has been demonstrated to promote protein denaturation, thus being far from ideal. Here, we will give a concise overview of the impact of tridimensional immobilization of ligands on label-free biosensors, mostly focusing on the effect of diffusion on binding affinity constants measurements. We will comment on how multilayering of probes is certainly useful in terms of increasing the sensitivity of the sensor, but can cause steric hindrance, mass transport and other diffusion effects. On the other hand, probe monolayers on epoxysilane chemistries do not undergo diffusion effect but rather other artifacts can occur due to probe distortion. Finally, a combination of tridimensional polymeric chemistry and probe monolayer is presented and reviewed, showing advantages and disadvantages over the other two approaches.