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Role of Different Receptor-Surface Binding Modes in the Morphological and Electrochemical Properties of Peptide-Nucleic-Acid-Based Sensing Platforms

Bartl, Johannes D., Scarbolo, Paolo, Brandalise, Denis, Stutzmann, Martin, Tornow, Marc, Selmi, Luca, Cattani-Scholz, Anna
Langmuir 2019 v.35 no.9 pp. 3272-3283
DNA, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, capacitance, chemical bonding, contact angle, dielectric spectroscopy, electrochemistry, peptides, phosphorous acid, silicon
Label-free detection of charged biomolecules, such as DNA, has experienced an increase in research activity in recent years, mainly to obviate the need for elaborate and expensive pretreatments for labeling target biomolecules. A promising label-free approach is based on the detection of changes in the electrical surface potential on biofunctionalized silicon field-effect devices. These devices require a reliable and selective immobilization of charged biomolecules on the device surface. In this work, self-assembled monolayers of phosphonic acids are used to prepare organic interfaces with a high density of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) bioreceptors, which are a synthetic analogue to DNA, covalently bound either in a multidentate (∥PNA) or monodentate (⊥PNA) fashion to the underlying silicon native oxide surface. The impact of the PNA bioreceptor orientation on the sensing platform’s surface properties is characterized in detail by water contact angle measurements, atomic force microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, cyclic voltammetry, and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. Our results suggest that the multidentate binding of the bioreceptor via attachment groups at the γ-points along the PNA backbone leads to the formation of an extended, protruding, and netlike three-dimensional metastructure. Typical “mesh” sizes are on the order of 8 ± 2.5 nm in diameter, with no preferential spatial orientation relative to the underlying surface. Contrarily, the monodentate binding provides a spatially more oriented metastructure comprising cylindrical features, of a typical size of 62 ± 23 × 12 ± 2 nm². Additional cyclic voltammetry measurements in a redox buffer solution containing a small and highly mobile Ru-based complex reveal strikingly different insulating properties (ion diffusion kinetics) of these two PNA systems. Investigation by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy confirms that the binding mode has a significant impact on the electrochemical properties of the functional PNA layers represented by detectable changes of the conductance and capacitance of the underlying silicon substrate in the range of 30–50% depending on the surface organization of the bioreceptors in different bias potential regimes.