This paper describes a method for modifying self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) with the nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) group for subsequent immobilization of hexahistidine tagged proteins. The method has two important improvements over previous ones; firstly it avoids the need to carry out a complex synthesis of the chelator alkanethiols prior to deposition because the reactions are performed in situ on a preassembled SAM. This in situ approach also avoids phase segregation of alkanethiols with different functional groups, especially bulky ones such as NTA and tri(ethylene glycol), since a simple SAM is employed as the starting material. The approach reported here uses mercaptohexadecanoic acid to form a well-ordered homogeneous carboxyl-terminated SAM on a gold surface. The carboxyl group was then condensed with an NTA derivative containing an amino group to form a peptide bond. The product is a surface that, after chelating Ni(2+) ions, binds histidine tagged proteins. The loading of NTA groups can be controlled by choice of reaction conditions thereby removing the need for a second alkanethiol to dilute the surface density of chelator groups and prevent molecular crowding. Both factors allow rapid attainment of optimal protein loading. Fluorescence imaging demonstrated that (His)(6) enhanced green fluorescent protein was reversibly immobilized and importantly, was functional on the surface. Furthermore, data from surface plasmon resonance, cyclic voltammetry and fluorescence spectrometry provided additional information on the specific and reversible immobilization of (His)(6) proteins on the NTA-modified SAM surface.
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