March 7, 2019
In a new study, distinguished sustainability scientist Stuart Lindsay and his colleagues at Arizona State University explore a surprising property of proteins — one that has only recently come to light. In research appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the group demonstrates electrical conductance through proteins poised between a pair of electrodes.
They further show that such conductance only occurs under highly specific conditions, when the contacts connecting the protein molecules to their electrodes are composed of exactly the molecule the protein has evolved to bind. This provides a recipe for wiring proteins into electrical circuits.
The implications of these results are significant because they permit great specificity in the detection of single molecules and because they provide a recipe for wiring proteins into an electrical circuit where they can be used as sensitive chemical sensors. Using the technique, individual antibodies may be sensed electrically when they bind a peptide epitope tethered to electrodes. Where no binding occurs, the signal will be zero, with no electrical background leakage in the circuit, in contrast to the commonly-used fluorescence assays which suffer from unwanted background signals.