Self-assembled monolayer-assisted silicon nanowire biosensor for detection of protein-DNA interactions in nuclear extracts from breast cancer cell.

Guo-Jun Zhang
Min Joon Huang
Jun'An Jason Ang
Edison T Liu
Kartiki Vasant Desai


The large number of estrogen receptor (ER) binding sites of various sequence patterns requires a sensitive detection to differentiate between subtle differences in ER-DNA binding affinities. A self-assembled monolayer (SAM)-assisted silicon nanowire (SiNW) biosensor for specific and highly sensitive detection of protein-DNA interactions, remarkably in nuclear extracts prepared from breast cancer cells, is presented. As a typical model, estrogen receptor element (ERE, dsDNA) and estrogen receptor alpha (ERα, protein) binding was adopted in the work. The SiNW surface was coated with a vinyl-terminated SAM, and the termination of the surface was changed to carboxylic acid via oxidation. DNA modified with amine group was subsequently immobilized on the SiNW surface. Protein-DNA binding was finally investigated by the functionalized SiNW biosensor. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) were employed to characterize the stepwise functionalization of the SAM and DNA on bare silicon surface, and to visualize protein-DNA binding on the SiNW surface, respectively. We observed that ERα had high sequence specificity to the SiNW biosensor which was functionalized with three different EREs including wild-type, mutant and scrambled DNA sequences. We also demonstrate that the specific DNA-functionalized SiNW biosensor was capable of detecting ERα as low as 10 fM. Impressively, the developed SiNW biosensor was able to detect ERα-DNA interactions in nuclear extracts from breast cancer cells. The SAM-assisted SiNW biosensor, as a label-free and highly sensitive tool, shows a potential in studying protein-DNA interactions.