Aptamer-field-effect transistors overcome Debye length limitations for small-molecule sensing

Science. 2018 Oct 19;362(6412):319-324. doi: 10.1126/science.aao6750. Epub 2018 Sep 6.


Detection of analytes by means of field-effect transistors bearing ligand-specific receptors is fundamentally limited by the shielding created by the electrical double layer (the "Debye length" limitation). We detected small molecules under physiological high-ionic strength conditions by modifying printed ultrathin metal-oxide field-effect transistor arrays with deoxyribonucleotide aptamers selected to bind their targets adaptively. Target-induced conformational changes of negatively charged aptamer phosphodiester backbones in close proximity to semiconductor channels gated conductance in physiological buffers, resulting in highly sensitive detection. Sensing of charged and electroneutral targets (serotonin, dopamine, glucose, and sphingosine-1-phosphate) was enabled by specifically isolated aptameric stem-loop receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / chemistry*
  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • Dopamine / analysis
  • Glucose / analysis
  • Lysophospholipids / analysis
  • Serotonin / analysis
  • Sphingosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Sphingosine / analysis
  • Transistors, Electronic


  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Lysophospholipids
  • sphingosine 1-phosphate
  • Serotonin
  • Glucose
  • Sphingosine
  • Dopamine