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Antibody Linking to Atomic Force Microscope Tips via Disulfide Bond Formation

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journal contribution
posted on 15.11.2006, 00:00 by A. S. M. Kamruzzahan, Andreas Ebner, Linda Wildling, Ferry Kienberger, Christian K. Riener, Christoph D. Hahn, Philipp D. Pollheimer, Peter Winklehner, Martin Hölzl, Bernd Lackner, Daniela M. Schörkl, Peter Hinterdorfer, Hermann J. Gruber
Covalent binding of bioligands to atomic force microscope (AFM) tips converts them into monomolecular biosensors by which cognate receptors can be localized on the sample surface and fine details of ligand−receptor interaction can be studied. Tethering of the bioligand to the AFM tip via a ∼6 nm long, flexible poly(ethylene glycol) linker (PEG) allows the bioligand to freely reorient and to rapidly “scan” a large surface area while the tip is at or near the sample surface. In the standard coupling scheme, amino groups are first generated on the AFM tip. In the second step, these amino groups react with the amino-reactive ends of heterobifunctional PEG linkers. In the third step, the 2-pyridyl-S-S groups on the free ends of the PEG chains react with protein thiol groups to give stable disulfide bonds. In the present study, this standard coupling scheme has been critically examined, using biotinylated IgG with free thiols as the bioligand. AFM tips with PEG-tethered biotin-IgG were specifically recognized by avidin molecules that had been adsorbed to mica surfaces. The unbinding force distribution showed three maxima that reflected simultaneous unbinding of 1, 2, or 3 IgG-linked biotin residues from the avidin monolayer. The coupling scheme was well-reproduced on amino-functionalized silicon nitride chips, and the number of covalently bound biotin-IgG per μm2 was estimated by the amount of specifically bound ExtrAvidin−peroxidase conjugate. Coupling was evidently via disulfide bonds, since only biotin-IgG with free thiol groups was bound to the chips. The mechanism of protein thiol coupling to 2-pyridyl-S-S-PEG linkers on AFM tips was further examined by staging the coupling step in bulk solution and monitoring turnover by release of 2-pyridyl-SH which tautomerizes to 2-thiopyridone and absorbs light at 343 nm. These experiments predicted 103-fold slower rates for the disulfide coupling step than actually observed on AFM tips and silicon nitride chips. The discrepancy was reconciled by assuming 103-fold enrichment of protein on AFM tips via preadsorption, as is known to occur on comparable inorganic surfaces.