What is it about?

One of the ultimate goals of molecular biology is to watch how single proteins work in their native state. The current mainstream approach of single molecule fluorescence relies on introducing external fluorescent markers which can lead to severe issues affecting the experimental results. As an alternative to fluorescence labelling, working in the ultraviolet is appealing to take advantage of the intrinsic autofluorescence naturally present in the vast majority of proteins. However, proteins are orders of magnitude dimmer as compared to conventional fluorescent dyes, so that single protein UV detection has remained a challenge so far. New nanotechnology tools need to be introduced to meet this challenge. In a recent publication in Nature Communications Ultraviolet optical horn antennas for label-free detection of single proteins, our team introduces a novel optical horn antenna platform for label-free detection of single proteins in the UV with unprecedented resolutions and sensitivity. The approach combines (i) a conical horn reflector for fluorescence collection at ultrahigh angles with (ii) a metal nanoaperture for fluorescence enhancement and background screening. Real-time detection of UV autofluorescence from immobilized and diffusing single label-free proteins is demonstrated, together with experiments monitoring unfolding and dissociation upon denaturation of a widely used protein with single-molecule resolution. Optical horn antennas open up a unique new form of spectroscopy enabling the investigation of single proteins in their native state and in real-time. This work provides a leap towards the design of biochemical assays with label-free single protein resolution as well as bright optical nano sources

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Why is it important?

"If you can see it, you can understand it, if you can understand it, you can use it", so we made a nanostructure to see and study protein at a single-molecule level and label-free


Seeing the natural light from a protein, down to the single-molecule level.

prithu roy
Aix-Marseille Universite

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Ultraviolet optical horn antennas for label-free detection of single proteins, Nature Communications, April 2022, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29546-4.
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