Biomimetic peptide nanosensors

Yue Cui, Sang N. Kim, Rajesh R. Naik, Michael C. McAlpine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


The development of a miniaturized sensing platform tailored for sensitive and selective detection of a variety of biochemical analytes could offer transformative fundamental and technological opportunities. Due to their high surface-to-volume ratios, nanoscale materials are extremely sensitive sensors. Likewise, peptides represent robust substrates for selective recognition due to the potential for broad chemical diversity within their relatively compact size. Here we explore the possibilities of linking peptides to nanosensors for the selective detection of biochemical targets. Such systems raise a number of interesting fundamental challenges: What are the peptide sequences, and how can rational design be used to derive selective binders? What nanomaterials should be used, and what are some strategies for assembling hybrid nanosensors? What role does molecular modeling play in elucidating response mechanisms? What is the resulting performance of these sensors, in terms of sensitivity, selectivity, and response time? What are some potential applications? This Account will highlight our early attempts to address these research challenges.Specifically, we use natural peptide sequences or sequences identified from phage display as capture elements. The sensors are based on a variety of nanomaterials including nanowires, graphene, and carbon nanotubes. We couple peptides to the nanomaterial surfaces via traditional surface functionalization methods or self-assembly. Molecular modeling provides detailed insights into the hybrid nanostructure, as well as the sensor detection mechanisms. The peptide nanosensors can distinguish chemically camouflaged mixtures of vapors and detect chemical warfare agents with sensitivities as low as parts-per-billion levels. Finally, we anticipate future uses of this technology in biomedicine: for example, devices based on these sensors could detect disease from the molecular components in human breath. Overall, these results provide a novel platform for the development of highly sensitive and selective nanoelectronic noses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)696-704
Number of pages9
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 15 2012


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