A new heterogeneous "sandwich" immunoassay utilizing microparticles as labels to realize high sensitivity is described. In this method, antibody fixed on the microparticles reacts with antigen previously trapped on a microplate surface, which makes the antigen molecules visible and countable with an inverted optical microscope. The method is highly sensitive because the reacted single microparticle, therefore single antigen molecule, can be detected. The sensitivity depends both on the reaction efficiency of the immunoreaction and on nonspecific adsorption of the microparticles on the microplate surface. Therefore, the protocol for preparing microparticle having antibody on the surface and a microplate having capture antibody was investigated to realize high sensitivity. Carboxylated microparticles of 0.76 μm in diameter were conjugated with affinity-purified antibody using 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl)carbodiimide. It was determined that 1 g microparticles had 880 μg antibody (approximately 1100 antibody molecules per 1 microparticle). The immunoreaction efficiency reached 18% at 1 × 10-13 mol/liter antigen concentration. The lower detection limit was 3.1 × 10-14 mol/liter (1.6 amol) using human α-fetoprotien as a model antigen.
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