Surfaces that resist protein adsorption are important for many bioanalytical applications. Bovine serum albumin (BSA) coatings and multi-arm poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) coatings display low levels of non-specific protein adsorption and have enabled highly quantitative single-molecule (SM) protein studies. Recently, a method was developed for coating a glass with PEG-BSA nanogels, a promising hybrid of these two low-background coatings. We characterized the nanogel coating to determine its suitability for SM protein experiments. SM adsorption counting revealed that nanogel-coated surfaces exhibit lower protein adsorption than covalently coupled BSA surfaces and monolayers of multi-arm PEG, so this surface displays one of the lowest degrees of protein adsorption yet observed. Additionally, the nanogel coating was resistant to DNA adsorption, underscoring the utility of the coating across a variety of SM experiments. The nanogel coating was found to be compatible with surfactants, whereas the BSA coating was not. Finally, applying the coating to a real-world study, we found that single ligand molecules could be tethered to this surface and detected with high sensitivity and specificity by a digital immunoassay. These results suggest that PEG-BSA nanogel coatings will be highly useful for the SM analysis of proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1400-1408
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number63
StatePublished - Oct 7 2011


  • Adsorption
  • Antibody binding
  • Digital immunoassay
  • Protein detection
  • Surfactant
  • Total internal reflection fluorescence


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