Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Edward S. Yeung


Various single-molecule techniques were utilized for ultra-sensitive early diagnosis of viral DNA and antigen and basic mechanism study of enzymatic reactions.

DNA of human papilloma virus (HPV) served as the screening target in a flow system. Alexa Fluor 532 (AF532) labeled single-stranded DNA probes were hybridized to the target HPV-16 DNA in solution. The individual hybridized molecules were imaged with an intensified charge-coupled device (ICCD) in two ways. In the single-color mode, target molecules were detected via fluorescence from hybridized probes only. This system could detect HPV-16 DNA in the presence of human genomic DNA down to 0.7 copy/cell and had a linear dynamic range of over 6 orders of magnitude. In the dual-color mode, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) was employed to achieve zero false-positive count. We also showed that DNA extracts from Pap test specimens did not interfere with the system.

A surface-based method was used to improve the throughput of the flow system. HPV-16 DNA was hybridized to probes on a glass surface and detected with a total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscope. In the single-probe mode, the whole genome and target DNA were fluorescently labeled before hybridization, and the detection limit is similar to the flow system. In the dual-probe mode, a second probe was introduced. The linear dynamic range covers 1.44-7000 copies/cell, which is typical of early infection to near-cancer stages. The dual-probe method was tested with a crudely prepared sample. Even with reduced hybridization efficiency caused by the interference of cellular materials, we were still able to differentiate infected cells from healthy cells.

Detection and quantification of viral antigen with a novel single-molecule immunosorbent assay (SMISA) was achieved. Antigen from human immunodeficiency virus type 1(HIV-1) was chosen to be the target in this study. The target was sandwiched between a monoclonal capture antibody and a polyclonal detector antibody. The capture antibody was covalently immobilized on modified glass slides. The detector antibody was conjugated with AF532 labeled secondary antibody prior to being used as probe for the antigen. Imaging was performed with a TIRF system. This technique is demonstrated for detecting HIV-1 p24 antigen down to 0.1 pg/mL with a dynamic range of over 4 orders of magnitude. A Langmuir isotherm fit the molecule count dependence on the target concentration. The results also showed that neither sensitivity nor dynamic range was affected by the biological matrix. SMISA is therefore a promising approach for the early diagnosis of virus-induced diseases.

Single-molecule enzymatic kinetics and enantioselectivity were monitored in real time by using TIRF microscopy. AF532 labeled poly-L-lysine (PLL) or poly-D-lysine (PDL) was covalently immobilized on a dithiobis (succinimidyl undecanoate) self-assembled monolayer (DSU SAM). Chain shortening due to enzymatic hydrolysis resulted in the reduction of the individual fluorescence intensities. A broad distribution was obtained when 100 single-molecule half-lives were analyzed. However, the detailed hydrolysis process involved also a long-lived component and an induction period that varied significantly among molecules. Charge and steric heterogeneity at the surface are responsible for these features.


Copyright Owner

Jiangwei Li



Date Available


File Format


File Size

137 pages

Included in

Chemistry Commons