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Femtogram-level detection of Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin type A by sandwich immunoassay using nanoporous substrate and ultra-bright fluorescent suprananoparticles

Bok, S;Korampally, V;Darr, CM;Folk, WR;Polo-Parada, L;Gangopadhyay, K;Gangopadhyay, S;

We report a simple, robust fluorescence biosensor for the ultra-sensitive detection of Clostridium botulinum Neurotoxin Type A (BoNT/A) in complex, real-world media. High intrinsic signal amplification was achieved through the combined use of ultra-bright, photostable dye-doped nanoparticle (DOSNP) tags and high surface area nanoporous organosilicate (NPO) thin films. DOSNP with 22 nm diameter were synthesized with more than 200 times equivalent free dye fluorescence and conjugated to antibodies with average degree of substitution of 90 dyes per antibody, representing an order of magnitude increase compared with conventional dye-labeled antibodies. The NPO films were engineered to form constructive interference at the surface where fluorophores were located. In addition, DOSNP-labeled antibodies with NPO films increased surface roughness causing diffuse scattering resulting in 24% more scattering intensity than dye-labeled antibody with NPO films. These substrates were used for immobilization of capture antibodies against BoNT/A, which was further quantified by DOSNP-labeled signal antibodies. The combination of optical effects enhanced the fluorescence and, therefore, the signal-to-noise ratio significantly. BoNT/A was detected in PBS buffer down to 21.3 fg mL(-1) in 4 h. The assay was then extended to several complex media and the four-hour detection limit was found to be 145.8 fg mL(-1) in orange juice and 164.2 fg mL(-1) in tap water, respectively, demonstrating at least two orders of magnitude improvement comparing to the reported detection limit of other enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). This assay, therefore, demonstrates a novel method for rapid, ultra-low level detection of not only BoNT/A, but other analytes as well.