Analytical chemistry

Nanowell-based immunoassays for measuring single-cell secretion: characterization of transport and surface binding.

PMID 25347613


Arrays of subnanoliter wells (nanowells) provide a useful system to isolate single cells and analyze their secreted proteins. Two general approaches have emerged: one that uses open arrays and local capture of secreted proteins, and a second (called microengraving) that relies on closed arrays to capture secreted proteins on a solid substrate, which is subsequently removed from the array. However, the design and operating parameters for efficient capture from these two approaches to analyze single-cell secretion have not been extensively considered. Using numerical simulations, we analyzed the operational envelope for both open and closed formats, as a function of the spatial distribution of capture ligands, their affinities for the protein, and the rates of single-cell secretion. Based on these analyses, we present a modified approach to capture secreted proteins in-well for highly active secreting cells. This simple method for in-well detection should facilitate rapid identification of cell lines with high specific productivities.