Methylene blue not ferrocene: Optimal reporters for electrochemical detection of protease activity

González-Fernández, Eva, Nikolaos Avlonitis, Alan Murray, Andrew Mount, Mark Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Electrochemical peptide-based biosensors are attracting significant attention for the detection and analysis of proteins. Here we report the optimisation and evaluation of an electrochemical biosensor for the detection of protease activity using self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) on gold surfaces, using trypsin as a model protease. The principle of detection was the specific proteolytic cleavage of redox-tagged peptides by trypsin, which causes the release of the redox reporter, resulting in a decrease of the peak current as measured by square wave voltammetry. A systematic enhancement of detection was achieved through optimisation of the properties of the redox-tagged peptide; this included for the first time a side-by-side study of the applicability of two of the most commonly applied redox reporters used for developing electrochemical biosensors, ferrocene and methylene blue, along with the effect of changing both the nature of the spacer and the composition of the SAM. Methylene blue-tagged peptides com- bined with a polyethylene-glycol (PEG) based spacer were shown to be the best platform for trypsin detection, leading to the highest fidelity signals (characterised by the highest sensitivity (signal gain) and a much more stable background than that registered when using ferrocene as a reporter). A ternary SAM (T-SAM) configuration, which included a PEG-based dithiol, minimised the non-specific adsorption of other proteins and was sensitive towards trypsin in the clinically relevant range, with a Limit of Detection (LoD) of 250 pM. Kinetic analysis of the electrochemical response with time showed a good fit to a Michaelis–Menten surface cleavage model, enabling the extraction of values for kcat and KM. Fitting to this model enabled quantitative determination of the solution concentration of trypsin across the entire measurement range. Studies using an enzyme inhibitor and a range of real world possible interferents demonstrated a selective response to trypsin cleavage. This indicates that a PEG-based peptide, em- ploying methylene blue as redox reporter, and deposited on an electrode as a ternary SAM configuration, is a suitable platform to develop clinically-relevant and quantitative electrochemical peptide-based protease biosensing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiosensors & Bioelectronics
Early online date30 Nov 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Nov 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Methylene blue not ferrocene: Optimal reporters for electrochemical detection of protease activity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this