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Electrochemically Controlled ATRP for Cleavage-Based Electrochemical Detection of the Prostate-Specific Antigen at Femtomolar Level Concentrations

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journal contribution
posted on 22.11.2020, 19:03 by Qiong Hu, Shiyu Gan, Yu Bao, Yuwei Zhang, Dongxue Han, Li Niu
As a single-chain glycoprotein with endopeptidase activity, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is valuable as an informative serum marker in diagnosing, staging, and prognosis of prostate cancer. In this report, an electrochemical biosensor based on the target-induced cleavage of a specific peptide substrate (PSA peptide) is designed for the highly selective detection of PSA at the femtomolar level, using electrochemically controlled atom transfer radical polymerization (eATRP) as a method for signal amplification. The PSA peptides, without free carboxyl sites, are attached to the gold surface via the N-terminal cysteine residue. The target-induced cleavage of PSA peptides results in the generation of carboxyl sites, to which the alkyl halide initiator α-bromophenylacetic acid (BPAA) is linked via the Zr­(IV) linkers. Subsequently, the potentiostatic eATRP of ferrocenylmethyl methacrylate (FcMMA, as the monomer) leads to the surface-initiated grafting of high-density ferrocenyl polymers. As a result, a large amount of Fc redox tags can be recruited for signal amplification, through which the limit of detection (LOD) for PSA can be down to 3.2 fM. As the recognition element, the PSA peptide is easy to synthesize, chemically and thermally stable, and low-cost. Without the necessity of enzyme or nanoparticle labels, the eATRP-based amplification method is easy to operate and low-cost. Results also show that the cleavage-based electrochemical PSA biosensor is highly selective and applicable to PSA detection in complex biological samples. In view of these merits, the integration of the eATRP-based amplification method into cleavage-based recognition is believed to hold great promise for the electrochemical detection of PSA in clinical applications.