Bioluminescence immunoassay for cortisol using recombinant aequorin as a label

Mara Mirasoli, Sapna K. Deo, Jennifer C. Lewis, Aldo Roda, Sylvia Daunert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The analysis of hormones in saliva is a powerful tool in the assessment of a patient's endocrine function, since it allows multiple noninvasive samplings. Since salivary levels of most hormones are 10 to 50 times lower than plasma levels, accurate and highly sensitive assays are needed for saliva measurements. Herein, we describe the development of a solid-phase competitive immunoassay for cortisol in saliva, in which a mutant of the photoprotein aequorin has been used as a label. We have chemically conjugated cortisol to aequorin at different molar ratios. The various cortisol-aequorin conjugates were characterized in terms of bioluminescent activity and affinity for the anti-cortisol antibody. The conjugate that gave the best analytical performance was used for the development of the immunoassay and the analysis of cortisol in saliva samples. The conjugates were stable for at least 6 months when stored at 4°C. The method fulfilled all the standard requirements of precision and accuracy. The optimized immunoassay gave a detection limit of 300 fmol/tube, corresponding to 3 nmol/L, with a linear dynamic range of 10-1000 nmol/L. Therefore, cortisol can be detected down to 0.1 ng in 100 μl of saliva sample using this assay, without any sample pretreatment. This detection limit is almost one order of magnitude lower than the physiological levels of salivary cortisol, which are reported to be 10-25 nmol/L. This allows the quantification of salivary cortisol to be performed in the linear range of the calibration curve, which is most reliable for quantification purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-211
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Biochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 15 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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