A digital microfluidic approach to homogeneous enzyme assays

Anal Chem. 2008 Mar 1;80(5):1614-9. doi: 10.1021/ac702269d. Epub 2008 Jan 26.


A digital microfluidic device was applied to a variety of enzymatic analyses. The digital approach to microfluidics manipulates samples and reagents in the form of discrete droplets, as opposed to the streams of fluid used in channel microfluidics. This approach is more easily reconfigured than a channel device, and the flexibility of these devices makes them suitable for a wide variety of applications. Alkaline phosphatase was chosen as a model enzyme and used to convert fluorescein diphosphate into fluorescein. Droplets of alkaline phosphatase and fluorescein diphosphate were merged and mixed on the device, resulting in a 140-nL, stopped-flow reaction chamber in which the fluorescent product was detected by a fluorescence plate reader. Substrate quantitation was achieved with a linear range of 2 orders of magnitude and a detection limit of approximately 7.0 x 10-20 mol. Addition of a small amount of a nonionic surfactant to the reaction buffer was shown to reduce the adsorption of enzyme to the device surface and extend the lifetime of the device without affecting the enzyme activity. Analyses of the enzyme kinetics and the effects of inhibition with inorganic phosphate were performed, and Km and kcat values of 1.35 microM and 120 s-1, respectively, agreed with those obtained in a conventional 384-well plate under the same conditions (1.85 microM and 155 s-1). A phototype device was also developed to perform multiplexed enzyme analyses. It was concluded that the digital microfluidic format is able to perform detailed and reproducible assays of substrate concentrations and enzyme activity in much smaller reaction volumes and with higher sensitivity than conventional methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / chemistry
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Fluorescein / chemistry
  • Fluorescein / metabolism
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques / methods*
  • Kinetics
  • Microfluidics / instrumentation*
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Fluorescein