Main Menu

ELISAEnzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay

The ELISA techniques are widely used for-

1) Quantitative estimation  of-

  • Hormones
  • Amino acids
  • Growth factors
  • Tumor  markers and
  • Other analytes which are present in very small concentration in biological fluids

 2) Qualitative detection of-

  • Bacterial or viral antigens
  • Antibodies against microbes
  • Any antigen, or antibody present in small concentration  in the biological fluid/tissues

 Advantages of ELISA

  • The test can be undertaken to detect antigens or antibodies present in very small quantities in tissues or blood.
  •  It is highly economical and a sensitive method.
  •  An enzyme is used as a label, so it is non-isotopic immune assay.
  •  It is more sensitive than Radio-immuno Assay and there is no risk of radiations hazards.


 ELISA is based on the Immuno chemical principles of Ag-Ab reaction. The specific interactions between specific antigens and antibodies are used here to detect/ quantitate the specific components of a biological fluid, using the enzyme labeled antibodies. The substrate of the enzyme is added, coupled with a colour reagent; which is colourless in the beginning but during the course of the reaction becomes coloured. The intensity of the colour formed predicts the concentration of the Ag/Ab present in the given sample.

Steps of ELISA

A) Antigen detection

  Sandwich ELISA (Figure-2)

A specific antibody is fixed to the well of a micro titer plate(Figure-1) The patient’s serum is added in the well and incubated for 30 minutes at 37 degrees Celsius. During this time, if the serum contains the antigen, it is fixed on the antibody. Excess antigens and other unwanted proteins are washed out. Then antibodies tagged with horse-radish peroxidase(HRP) enzyme are added. If the antigen is already fixed, the Ab-HRP conjugate will be fixed in the well. Then a colour reagent, containing hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and diamino benzidine (DAB) are added. The reaction is as follows-


i) H2O2   ————————–>      H2O  +  Nascent oxygen [o]

The reaction is catalyzed by Horse radish peroxidase enzyme

ii) Diamino benzidine—————————>   Oxidized DAB

   (colorless)                                                            (brown color)

 The reaction takes place in the presence of Nascent oxygen [o]

Thus in the above reaction, antigen is sandwiched between Ab ( solid phase) and the enzyme  labeled antibody. Development of brown colour indicates that the antigen is originally present in the patient’s serum. Colour developed is proportional to the antigen in the serum. Therefore intensity of the colour is measured from which the concentration of the antigen can be calculated. Other chromogens that can be used in ELISA are NBT (Nitro blue tetrazolium-blue colour) and NPP (Nitro phenyl phosphate-yellow color).

 ELISA plate

Figure-1- Showing microtitre plate

B) Antibody detection

Indirect ELISA (Figure-2)

This is useful to detect small quantities of antibodies in the blood e.g. to detect HIV antibodies in the patient’s serum, this test can be undertaken by the following method-

Antigen from HIV is coated in the well of a multiwell microtitre plate. Patient’s serum is added and incubated. If it contains the antibodies, it is fixed. The wells are washed. This is done to remove excess unbound antibodies. Then a second antibody (Antibody against human immunoglobulin) conjugated with HRP is added. Then colour reagent containing hydrogen peroxide and diamino benzidine is poured over. Development of   brown colour indicates the presence of antibodies in the patient’s serum. The colour developed is proportional to the antibody concentration. Thus from the intensity of colour, the concentration of Ab can be determined(Figure-1).

ELISA is less specific for HIV so the confirmation by other methods is necessary for the final diagnosis of AIDS. 

 Steps of ELISA

Figure-2-Showing the steps of Sandwich and Indirect ELISA

Please help "Biochemistry for Medics" by CLICKING ON THE ADVERTISEMENTS above!