Viral particles bind to receptors through multivalent protein interactions. Such high avidity interactions on sensor surfaces are less studied. In this work, three polyelectrolytes that can form biosensing surfaces with different interfacial characteristics in probe density and spatial arrangement were designed. Quartz crystal microbalance, interferometry and atomic force microscopy were used to study their surface density and binding behaviors with proteins and virus particles. A multivalent adsorption kinetic model was developed to estimate the number of bonds from the viral particles bound to the polyelectrolyte surfaces. Experimental results show that the heterogeneous 3D surface with jagged forest-like structure enhances the virus capture ability by maximizing the multivalent interactions. As a proof of concept, specific coronavirus detection was achieved in spiked swab samples. These results indicate the importance of both probe density and their spatial arrangement on the sensing performance, which could be used as a guideline for rational biosensing surface design.
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