Surface passivation with a perfluoroalkane brush improves the precision of single-molecule measurements

Carlos J. Bueno-Alejo, Marina Santana Vega, Amanda K. Chaplin, Chloe Farrow, Alexander Axer, Glenn A. Burley, Cyril Dominguez, Hesna Kara, Vasileios Paschalis, Sumera Tubasum, Ian C. Eperon, Alasdair W. Clark, Andrew J. Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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Single-molecule imaging is invaluable for investigating the heterogeneous behavior and interactions of biological molecules. However, an impediment to precise sampling of single molecules is the irreversible adsorption of components onto the surfaces of cover glasses. This causes continuous changes in the concentrations of different molecules dissolved or suspended in the aqueous phase from the moment a sample is dispensed, which will shift, over time, the position of chemical equilibria between monomeric and multimeric components. Interferometric scattering microscopy (iSCAT) is a technique in the single-molecule toolkit that has the capability to detect unlabeled proteins and protein complexes both as they adsorb onto and desorb from a glass surface. Here, we examine the reversible and irreversible interactions between a number of different proteins and glass via analysis of the adsorption and desorption of protein at the single-molecule level. Furthermore, we present a method for surface passivation that virtually eliminates irreversible adsorption while still ensuring the residence time of molecules on surfaces is sufficient for detection of adsorption by iSCAT. By grafting high-density perfluoroalkane brushes on cover-glass surfaces, we observe approximately equal numbers of adsorption and desorption events for proteins at the measurement surface (±1%). The fluorous–aqueous interface also prevents the kinetic trapping of protein complexes and assists in establishing a thermodynamic equilibrium between monomeric and multimeric components. This surface passivation approach is valuable for in vitro single-molecule experiments using iSCAT microscopy because it allows for continuous monitoring of adsorption and desorption of protein without either a decline in detection events or a change in sample composition due to the irreversible binding of protein to surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49604-49616
Number of pages13
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number44
Early online date28 Oct 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Oct 2022


  • general materials science
  • single molecule measurements
  • amorphous maerials
  • desorption
  • inorganic compounds


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