Photoswitchable Machine-Engineered Plasmonic Nanosystem with High Optical Response for Ultrasensitive Detection of microRNAs and Proteins Adaptively

Anal Chem. 2021 Oct 19;93(41):13935-13944. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.1c02990. Epub 2021 Oct 4.


Modulating optoelectronic properties of inorganic nanostructures tethered with light-responsive molecular switches by their conformational change in the solid state is fundamentally important for advanced nanoscale-device fabrication, specifically in biosensing applications. Herein, we present an entirely new solid-state design approach employing the light-induced reversible conformational change of spiropyran (SP)-merocyanine (MC) covalently attached to gold triangular nanoprisms (Au TNPs) via alkylthiolate self-assembled monolayers to produce a large localized surface plasmon resonance response (∼24 nm). This shift is consistent with the increase in thickness of the local dielectric shell-surrounded TNPs and perhaps short-range dipole-dipole (permanent and induced) interactions between TNPs and the zwitterionic MC form. Water contact angle measurement and Raman spectroscopy characterization unequivocally prove the formation of a stable TNP-MC structural motif. Utilizing this form, we fabricated the first adaptable nanoplasmonic biosensor, which uses an identical structural motif for ultrasensitive, highly specific, and programmable detection of microRNAs and proteins at attomolar concentrations in standard human plasma and urine samples, and at femtomolar concentrations from bladder cancer patient plasma (n = 10) and urine (n = 10), respectively. Most importantly, the TNP-MC structural motif displays a strong binding affinity with receptor molecules (i.e., single-stranded DNA and antibody) producing a highly stable biosensor. Taken together, the TNP-MC structural motif represents a multifunctional super biosensor with the potential to expand clinical diagnostics through simplifying biosensor design and providing highly accurate disease diagnosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • Gold
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles*
  • MicroRNAs*
  • Surface Plasmon Resonance


  • MicroRNAs
  • Gold