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Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISAs) combine the specificity of antibodies with the sensitivity of simple enzyme assays, by using antibodies or antigens coupled to an easily assayed enzyme that possesses a high turnover number. ELISAs can provide a useful measurement of antigen or antibody concentration.
Millipore offers a variety of highly validated preconfigured ELISA assays, reagents and accessories for the study of metabolic disease markers and other vital research targets. This guidebook will provide you with an overview of ELISA methodologies, as well as highlighting Millipore’s industry-leading ELISA kits and filter plates. Be sure to check http://www.millipore.com for the latest ELISA product listings.
ELISAs are used to determine the concentration of specific molecules in a sample. This method is typically highly sensitive while usually simple to perform. This solid-phase assay is possible due to the fact that proteins (antibodies) can be positively attached to plastics (96-well microtiter plate).
One of the most useful of the immunoassays is the two antibody ‘sandwich’ ELISA. This assay is used to determine the antigen concentration in unknown samples. This ELISA is fast and accurate, and if a purified antigen standard is available, the assay can determine the absolute amount of antigen in an unknown sample. The sandwich ELISA requires two antibodies that bind to epitopes that do not overlap on the antigen. This can be accomplished with either two monoclonal antibodies that recognize discrete sites or one batch of affinity-purified polyclonal antibodies. To utilize this assay, one antibody (the ‘capture’ antibody) is purified and bound to a solid phase typically attached to the bottom of a plate well. Antigen is then added and allowed to complex with the bound antibody. Unbound products are then removed with a wash, and a labeled second antibody (the ‘detection’ antibody) is allowed to bind to the antigen, thus completing the “sandwich”. The assay is then quantitated by measuring the amount of labeled second antibody bound to the matrix, through the use of a colorimetric substrate. Major advantages of this technique are that the antigen does not need to be purified prior to use, and that these assays are very specific. However, one disadvantage is that not all antibodies can be used. Monoclonal antibody combinations must be qualified as “matched pairs”, meaning that they can recognize separate epitopes on the antigen so they do not hinder each other’s binding. Unlike Western blots, which use precipitating substrates, ELISA procedures utilize substrates that produce soluble products. Ideally the enzyme substrates should be stable, safe and inexpensive. Popular enzymes are those that convert a colorless substrate to a colored product, e.g., pnitrophenylphosphate (pNPP), which is converted to the yellow p-nitrophenol by alkaline phosphatase. Substrates used with peroxidase include 2,2’-azo-bis(3-ethylbenzthiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS), o-phenylenediamine (OPD) and 3,3’5,5’-tetramethylbenzidine base (TMB), which yield green, orange and blue colors, respectively.
When two “matched pair” antibodies are not available for your target, another option is the competitive ELISA. Another advantage to the competitive ELISA is that non-purified primary antibodies may be used. Although there are several different configurations for competitive ELISAs, below is an example for one such configuration. In order to utilize a competitive ELISA, one reagent must be conjugated to a detection enzyme, such as horseradish peroxidase. The enzyme may be linked to either the immunogen or the primary antibody. The protocol below uses a labeled immunogen as the competitor.
Briefly, an unlabeled purified primary antibody is coated onto the wells of a 96 well microtiter plate. This primary antibody is then incubated with unlabeled standards and unknowns. After this reaction is allowed to go to equilibrium, conjugated immunogen is added. This conjugate will bind to the primary antibody wherever its binding sites are not already occupied by unlabeled immunogen. Thus, the more immunogen in the sample or standard, the lower the amount of conjugated immunogen bound. The plate is then developed with substrate and color change is measured.