In recent years, food safety concerning food allergy has received increasing attention globally. A simple and sensitive detection method should be developed to measure trace amounts of allergens in foods. Here, we propose a label-free field effect transistor (FET)-based biosensing system for the detection of a buckwheat allergenic protein, BWp16, by surfactant-induced signal amplification. BWp16 could be detected by coupling with an anionic surfactant, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), as this coupling enhanced the net charge of the protein, enough to be detected by FET biosensors. A significant response was observed when the allergen was coupled with SDS, while the responses were decreased or unchanged when it was coupled with a cationic or non-ionic surfactant, suggesting that the SDS coupling maintains the antibody recognition ability of the target allergen, and it would be useful to enhance the sensor responses. The fluorescence spectroscopic measurement revealed that the SDS molecules were successfully coupled with target allergenic protein BWp16, resulting in an increase in its net charge. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the FET biosensor enables specific detection of the allergen in food at the desired concentration levels for food safety analysis, suggesting that it could be used as an alternative food allergen analyzer, both industrially and domestically.
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