Molecular imprinting, which involves the formation of artificial recognition elements or cavities with complementary shape and chemical functionality to the target species, is a powerful method to overcome a number of limitations associated with natural antibodies. An important but often overlooked consideration in the design of artificial biorecognition elements based on molecular imprinting is the nonspecific binding of interfering species to noncavity regions of the imprinted polymer. Here, we demonstrate a universal method, namely, PEGylation of the noncavity regions of the imprinted polymer, to minimize the nonspecific binding and significantly enhance the selectivity of the molecular imprinted polymer for the target biomolecules. The nonspecific binding, as quantified by the localized surface plasmon resonance shift of imprinted plasmonic nanorattles upon exposure to common interfering proteins, was found to be more than 10 times lower compared to the non-PEGylated counterparts. The method demonstrated here can be broadly applied to a wide variety of functional monomers employed for molecular imprinting. The significantly higher selectivity of PEGylated molecular imprints takes biosensors based on these artificial biorecognition elements closer to real-world applications.
- artificial antibody
- localized surface plasmon resonance
- molecular imprinting
- plasmonic biosensor