An immunoassay for small analytes with theoretical detection limits

Anal Chem. 2001 Jul 15;73(14):3392-9. doi: 10.1021/ac001328d.


A flow-based immunoassay that uses microspheres as the solid phase accomplished the theoretical limit of detectability achievable with the antibody. An equilibrated mixture of anti-estriol monoclonal antibody and estriol was briefly exposed to a bead pack containing immobilized estriol in a flow cell. A small portion of free antibody was separated rapidly from the mixture by binding it to immobilized hormone, but the antibody-hormone complex was kinetically excluded from binding. This rapid separation prevented shift in the equilibrium of the liquid phase binding. Signals were generated by labeling the separated antibodies on the beads with a Cy5-conjugated antispecies secondary antibody. By labeling after the separation step, perturbing the liquid-phase or solid-phase binding was prevented. This assay allowed the reduction of the concentration of primary antibody by continuously accumulating free antibody onto the beads prior to quantification and, thus, offered ideal conditions to achieve theoretical limits of detectability. The optimum achievable dynamic range of this immunoassay was 4-300 pM. Because the proportion of free anti-estriol antibody in the mixture was controlled by the Kd of the antibody-estriol interaction, when the concentration of the antibody was below the Kd, the smallest detectable estriol concentration approached the theoretical limit of detectability achievable with this antibody.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Estriol / analysis*
  • Estriol / immunology
  • Immunoassay / methods*
  • Kinetics
  • Microspheres
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens
  • Estriol