Direct visualization of superselective colloid-surface binding mediated by multivalent interactions

Christine Linne, Daniele Visco, Stefano Angioletti-Uberti, Liedewij Laan, Daniela J. Kraft*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Reliably distinguishing between cells based on minute differences in receptor density is crucial for cell-cell or virus-cell recognition, the initiation of signal transduction, and selective targeting in directed drug delivery. Such sharp differentiation between different surfaces based on their receptor density can only be achieved by multivalent interactions. Several theoretical and experimental works have contributed to our understanding of this "superselectivity." However, a versatile, controlled experimental model system that allows quantitative measurements on the ligand-receptor level is still missing. Here, we present a multivalent model system based on colloidal particles equipped with surface-mobile DNA linkers that can superselectively target a surface functionalized with the complementary mobile DNA-linkers. Using a combined approach of light microscopy and Foerster resonance energy transfer (FRET), we can directly observe the binding and recruitment of the ligand-receptor pairs in the contact area. We find a nonlinear transition in colloid-surface binding probability with increasing ligand or receptor concentration. In addition, we observe an increased sensitivity with weaker ligand-receptor interactions, and we confirm that the timescale of binding reversibility of individual linkers has a strong influence on superselectivity. These unprecedented insights on the ligand-receptor level provide dynamic information into the multivalent interaction between two fluidic membranes mediated by both mobile receptors and ligands and will enable future work on the role of spatial-temporal ligand-receptor dynamics on colloid-surface binding.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2106036118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number36
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Binding kinetics
  • DNA-coated colloids
  • Multivalent interactions
  • Superselectivity
  • Surface adhesion


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