Charge-Sensitive Optical Detection of Small Molecule Binding Kinetics in Normal Ionic Strength Buffer

Runli Liang, Guangzhong Ma, Wenwen Jing, Yan Wang, Yunze Yang, Nongjian Tao, Shaopeng Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Most label-free detection technologies detect the masses of molecules, and their sensitivities thus decrease with molecular weight, making it challenging to detect small molecules. To address this need, we have developed a charge-sensitive optical detection (CSOD) technique, which detects the charge rather than the mass of a molecule with an optical fiber. However, the effective charge of a molecule decreases with the buffer ionic strength. For this reason, the previous CSOD works with diluted buffers, which could affect the measured molecular binding kinetics. Here, we show a technique capable of detecting molecular binding kinetics in normal ionic strength buffers. An H-shaped sample well was developed to increase the current density at the sensing area to compensate the signal loss due to ionic screening at normal ionic strength buffer, while keeping the current density low at the electrodes to minimize the electrode reaction. In addition, agarose gels were used to cover the electrodes to prevent electrode reaction generated bubbles from entering the sensing area. With this new design, we have measured the binding kinetics between G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and their small molecule ligands in normal buffer. We found that the affinities measured in normal buffer are stronger than those measured in diluted buffer, likely due to the stronger electrostatic repulsion force between the same charged ligands and receptors in the diluted buffer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-370
Number of pages7
JournalACS sensors
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 26 2021


  • G-protein-coupled receptors
  • binding kinetics
  • charge sensitive optical detection
  • label-free
  • normal ionic strength buffer
  • small molecule
  • virion display

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Instrumentation
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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