The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is widely used in various fields to detect specific biomarkers. However, ELISA tests have limited detection sensitivity (≥ 1 pM), which is insufficiently sensitive for the detection of small amounts of biomarkers in the early stages of disease or infection. Herein, a method for the rapid and highly sensitive detection of specific antigens, using temperature-responsive liposomes (TLip) containing a squaraine dye that exhibits fluorescence at the phase transition temperature of the liposomes, was developed. A proof-of-concept study using biotinylated TLip and a streptavidin-immobilized microwell plate showed that the TLip bound to the plate via specific molecular recognition could be distinguished from unbound TLip within 1 min because of the difference in the heating time required for the fluorescence emission of TLip. This system could be used to detect prostate specific antigen (PSA) based on a sandwich immunosorbent assay using detection and capture antibodies, in which the limit of detection was as low as 27.6 ag/mL in a 100-μL PSA solution, 0.97 aM in terms of molar concentration. The present temperature-responsive liposome-linked immunosorbent assay provides an advanced platform for the rapid and highly sensitive detection of biomarkers for use in diagnosis and biological inspections.
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