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A new generation of protein nanoarrays


Scientists have developed a new type of protein array for studying interactions between proteins and other molecules on an extremely small scale. Size is what sets these arrays apart—they are built on a nano-scale (one nanometer equals one-billionth of a meter). The arrays are coated surfaces containing proteins that can be exposed to other proteins and structures in order to study their interactions.

Three-dimensional topographic image of a lysozyme nanoarray. View larger

"The ability to make protein nanoarrays on a surface with well-defined feature size, shape, and spacing should increase the capabilities of researchers studying the fundamental interactions between biological structures (cells, complementary proteins, and viruses) and surfaces patterned with proteins," the researchers write in Science Express. Chad A. Mirkin, of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, led the research.

The method used to create the protein nanoarrays is called dip-pen lithography. This technique involves using an instrument to modify the surface of the arrays, which is a type of gold film. The dip-pen lithography allows researchers to create high-resolution patterns on the surface, thereby giving the arrays their sensitivity.

In a related study, Mirkin and two colleagues at Northwestern's Institute for Nanotechnology developed a new method of detecting small amounts of DNA in a solution. The method relies on an electrical current to indicate the presence of complementary strands of DNA. When complementary DNA strands bind, gold nanoparticles form a bridge that conducts an electric signal. A photographic solution containing silver can be added to further amplify the signal.

The new method "presents a straightforward approach to high-sensitivity and -selectivity multiplexed detection of DNA," the researchers write in Science. The new technology could be used to develop a hand-held device that provides faster, less expensive, and more accurate detection of DNA, according to Mirkin.

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Lee, K.B. et al. Protein nanoarrays generated by dip-pen nanolithography. Science Express. Published online February 7, 2002.
Park, S.J. et al. Array-based electrical detection of DNA with nanoparticle probes. Science 295, 1503-1506 (February 22, 2002).

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