Bright Fluorescent Nanotags from Bottlebrush Polymers with DNA-Tipped Bristles
Bright signal outputs are needed for fluorescence detection of biomolecules at their native expression levels. Increasing the number of labels on a probe often results in crowding-induced self-quenching of chromophores, and maintaining the function of the targeting moiety (e.g., an antibody) is a concern. Here we demonstrate a simple method to accommodate thousands of fluorescent dye molecules on a single antibody probe while avoiding the negative effects of self-quenching. We use a bottlebrush polymer from which extend hundreds of duplex DNA strands that can accommodate hundreds of covalently attached and/or thousands of noncovalently intercalated fluorescent dyes. This polymer−DNA assembly sequesters the intercalated fluorophores against dissociation and can be tethered through DNA hybridization to an IgG antibody. The resulting fluorescent nanotag can detect protein targets in flow cytometry, confocal fluorescence microscopy, and dot blots with an exceptionally bright signal that compares favorably to commercially available antibodies labeled with organic dyes or quantum dots.