An ultrasensitive method for the determination of proteins is described that combines an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and a thionicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide (thio-NAD) cycling method. A sandwich method using a primary and a secondary antibody for antigens is employed in an ELISA. An androsterone derivative, 3α-hydroxysteroid, is produced by the hydrolysis of 3α-hydroxysteroid 3-phosphate with alkaline phosphatase linked to the secondary antibody. This 3α-hydroxysteroid is oxidized to a 3-ketosteroid by 3α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3α-HSD) with a cofactor thio-NAD. By the opposite reaction, the 3-ketosteroid is reduced to a 3α-hydroxysteroid by 3α-HSD with a cofactor NADH. During this cycling reaction, thio-NADH accumulates in a quadratic function-like fashion. Accumulated thio-NADH can be measured directly at an absorbance of 400 nm without any interference from other cofactors. These features enable us to detect a target protein with ultrasensitivity (10–19 mol/assay) by measuring the cumulative quantity of thio-NADH. Our ultrasensitive determination of proteins thus allows for the detection of small amounts of proteins only by the application of thio-NAD cycling reagents to the usual ELISA system.
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