The orientation of an immobilized antigen is important for recognition by, e.g., an antibody. When noncovalent passive adsorption is used for immobilization, the number of ways that the antigen can attach to the surface is numerous and control of how the antigen orientates on the surface is limited. Covalent immobilization restricts the number of the ways that the antigen can be immobilized to the number of reactive groups on the antigen and, hence, the orientation of the immobilized antigen is more predictable. Peptide antigens were synthesized and purified with protection groups on the lysine and cysteine side chains. These peptides, which have only one good nucleophilic group (the N-terminal alpha-amino group), were immobilized covalently in microtiter plates supplied with tresyl groups on the surface and the protection groups were cleaved off in situ after immobilization. The controlled orientation of these peptides resulted in enhanced recognition by antibodies in general. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for detection of antibodies against a peptide derived from outer surface protein C from Borrelia burgdorferi, found in Lyme borreliosis patients, was established using this strategy. Lyme borreliosis suspect patient sera showed up to a 10-fold increase in the signal when the orientation of the peptide antigen was controlled by the in situ deprotection strategy.
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