ELISA principle

ELISA protocols and Troubleshooting guide for high quality and reliable data.

Browse Boster Featured Products

What is ELISA?

ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) is a plate-based assay technique designed for detecting and quantifying peptides, proteins, antibodies, and hormones. In ELISA, an antigen must be immobilized to a solid surface and then complexed with an antibody that is linked to an enzyme. Detection is accomplished by assessing the conjugated enzyme activity via incubation with a substrate to produce a measurable product. The most crucial element of the detection strategy is a highly specific antibody-antigen interaction.

ELISAs are typically performed in 96-well (or 384-well) polystyrene plates, which will passively bind antibodies and proteins. The binding and immobilization of reagents makes ELISAs simple to design and perform. Having the reactants of the ELISA immobilized to the microplate surface enables easy separation of bound from non-bound material during the assay. This ability to wash away non-specifically bound materials makes the ELISA a powerful tool for measuring specific analytes within a crude preparation.

How ELISA Works?

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) principles are very similar to other immunoassay technologies. ELISAs rely on specific antibodies to bind the target antigen, and a detection system to indicate the presence and quantity of antigen binding. In order to maximize the sensitivity and precision of the assay, the plate must be carefully coated with high-affinity antibodies – a process that Boster Bio has mastered.

Outsource your ELISA Experiments

Did you know that Boster, the leading ELISA manufacturers are providing research-grade CRO services? Outsource your ELISA experiments today and save your time and money.

Bosterbio Your ELISA Power House

Cited in over 6000+ publications, trusted by scientists around the world.

Our 2300+ ELISA kits are validated in multiple sample matrices from serum and saliva to urine and feces, ensuring wide application ranges for you to select from. Boster's mission is to support research in areas such as immunology, neuroscience, cancer, and more by providing the high-quality ELISA kits needed to get better results. Here are the list of our most popular ELISA kit.


Comparisons on Direct, Indirect, Sandwich, Competitive ELISA

ELISAs can be performed with a number of modifications to the basic procedure: direct, indirect, sandwich or competitive. The key step, immobilization of the antigen of interest, can be accomplished by direct adsorption to the assay plate or indirectly via a capture antibody that has been attached to the plate. The antigen is then detected either directly (enzyme-labeled primary antibody) or indirectly (enzyme-labeled secondary antibody). The detection antibodies are usually labeled with alkaline phosphatase (AP) or horseradish peroxidase (HRP). A large selection of substrates is available for performing the ELISA with an HRP or AP conjugate. The choice of substrate depends upon the required assay sensitivity and the instrumentation available for signal-detection (spectrophotometer, fluorometer or luminometer).

Among the standard assay formats discussed and illustrated below, where differences in both cpture and detection were the concern, it is important to differentiate between the particular strategies that exist specifically for the detection step. However an antigen is captured to the plate (by direct adsorption to the surface or through a pre-coated "capture" antibody, as in a sandwich ELISA), it is the detection step (as either direct or indirect detection) that largely determines the sensitivity of an ELISA.



For direct detection, an antigen coated to a multi-well plate is detected by an antibody that has been directly conjugated to an enzyme. This detection method is a good option if there is no commercially available ELISA kits for your target protein.

Hover to See More



  • Quick because only one antibody and fewer steps are used.
  • Cross-reactivity of secondary antibody is eliminated.


  • Cell Smear: Adhere non-adherent cells on coverslip with chemical bond
  • Immunoreactivity of the primary antibody might be adversely affected by labeling with enzymes or tags.
  • Labeling primary antibodies for each specific ELISA system is time-consuming and expensive.
  • No flexibility in choice of primary antibody label from one experiment to another.
  • Minimal signal amplification.


For indirect detection, the antigen coated to a multi-well plate is detected in two stages or layers. First an unlabeled primary antibody, which is specific for the antigen, is applied. Next, an enzyme-labeled secondary antibody is bound to the first antibody

Hover to See More



  • A wide variety of labeled secondary antibodies are available commercially.
  • Versatile because many primary antibodies can be made in one species and the same labeled secondary antibody can be used for detection.
  • Maximum immunoreactivity of the primary antibody is retained because it is not labeled.
  • Sensitivity is increased because each primary antibody contains several epitopes that can be bound by the labeled secondary antibody, allowing for signal amplification.


  • Cell Smear: Adhere non-adherent cells on coverslip with chemical bond
  • Cross-reactivity might occur with the secondary antibody, resulting in nonspecific signal.
  • An extra incubation step is required in the procedure.


Sandwich ELISAs typically require the use of matched antibody pairs, where each antibody is specific for a different, non-overlapping part (epitope) of the antigen molecule. A first antibody (known as capture antibody) is coated to the wells.

Hover to See More


Sandwich ELISAs typically require the use of matched antibody pairs, where each antibody is specific for a different, non-overlapping part (epitope) of the antigen molecule. A first antibody (known as capture antibody) is coated to the wells. The sample solution is then added to the well. A second antibody (known as detection antibody) follows this step in order to measure the concentration of the sample. This type of ELISA has the following advantages:

  • High specificity: the antigen/analyte is specifically captured and detected
  • Suitable for complex (or crude/impure) samples: the antigen does not require purification prior to measurement
  • Flexibility and sensitivity: both direct or indirect detection methods can be used


This ELISA kit is of competitive format. Competitive ELISA, also known as inhibition ELISA, is a surface/plate based assay, where the plate is coated with capture antibodies reactive to the molecule of interest.

Hover to See More


This ELISA kit is of competitive format. Competitive ELISA, also known as inhibition ELISA, is a surface/plate based assay, where the plate is coated with capture antibodies reactive to the molecule of interest. The sample (containing native molecule of interest) and enzyme conjugated recombinant protein (the competing molecule) are added to the coated wells. Since the amount of enzyme conjugated molecule in each well is constant, the level of native molecule in the sample will determine the binding ratio of enzyme conjugated molecule vs. native molecule. After an incubation period, any unbound antibody is washed off. Enzyme substrate (for example, TMB for HRP) is added to each well and will be transformed into a blue precipitate, the amount of which is linearly proportional to the amount of enzyme in the well. The precipitate is then turned into yellow by adding the acid stop solution and the concentration of yellow precipitate is read at 450nm for light absorbance (O.D. value). The O.D. is then used to calculate the amount of molecule of interest in each well, by comparing each sample well against the standard curve. The standard curve is generated using the same principle but instead of adding samples, a series of recombinant molecules with known concentrations are added to 6-8 wells.


General ELISA Workflow, a step-by-step ELISA protocol


Capture Ab Coating
Antigen Coating
Sample (Antigen) Incubation
Primary Ab Incubation
Secondary Ab Incubation
Substrate Prep
Signal Detection
Data Analysis

ELISA data interpretation - 3 steps

  1. Quantitative: ELISA data can be interpreted in comparison to a standard curve (a serial dilution of a known, purified antigen) in order to precisely calculate the concentrations of antigen in various samples.
  2. Qualitative: ELISAs can also be used to achieve a yes or no answer indicating whether a particular antigen is present in a sample, as compared to a blank well containing no antigen or an unrelated control antigen.
  3. Semi-Quantitative: ELISAs can be used to compare the relative levels of antigen in assay samples, since the intensity of signal will vary directly with antigen concentration.

ELISA data interpretation

ELISA data is typically graphed with optical density (or fluorescence) vs concentration to produce a sigmoidal curve as shown above.

Would like a free ELISA handbook Guide?

This guide will teach you everything you need to become an ELISA expert, including a critical review of principles, all-in-one FAQs, and more.

Picokine™ elisa kit benefits

Picokine ELISA kits are Boster Bio manufactured ELISA kits that have Picokine level sensitivity. Our ELISA kits come with over 20 years of manufacturing expertise and proprietary methods which provide the precision you need.

Boster Bio is proud to offer over 1,000 ELISA kits for a wide range of targets. With over 20 years of experience in antibody and ELISA kit manufacturing, Boster Picokine™ enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) kits are guaranteed to be sensitive, specific, and stable. We rigorously validate every lot against a wide range of samples to ensure consistent, reliable results. Join over 14,000 scientists who put their trust in Boster Picokine™ ELISA kits.


Boster's Picokine™ ELISA kits are made with high affinity antibodies that can detect native form proteins with picogram and subpicogram level sensitivity.


Boster's QC department validates our ELISA kits against proteins in relevant superfamilies and proteins with similar immunogenicities to ensure specificity to the analytes of interests.


Our 2300+ ELISA kits are validated in multiple sample matrices from serum and saliva to urine and feces, ensuring wide application ranges for you to select from.


Boster has been serving the research community since 1993 and cited by 23,000+ publications. Our team of experts are dedicated to provide you the best customer service.

Popular Picokine™ ELISA Kits

Cited by more than 1000+ publications


Don't see what you want? Ask us at [email protected]

The most commonly used enzyme labels are horseradish peroxidase (HRP) and alkaline phosphatase (AP). Other enzymes have been used as well; these include β-galactosidase, acetylcholinesterase, and catalase

The substrate is a crucial component for a successful ELISA assay. To obtain optimal detection, the substrate must be highly sensitive. Colorimetric ELISA enzyme-substrate reactions generate soluble products with an absorbance (optical density) which can be measured in a spectrophotometer

There are many established applications of ELISA in clinical medicine, including diagnostic assays measuring human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), estrogen, hepatitis B antigen, and various antibodies, to name but a few.

ELISA has certain limitations such as tedious/laborious assay procedure, and insufficient level of sensitivity in bio-recognition of challenging biomolecular entities such as microRNAs.

It is a calculated value that is determined by comparing readouts from many sample replicates of low standard concentrations and zero concentrations. Sensitivity is measured by ΔAbs/Δ Concentration. Assay sensitivity can be higher than the lowest standard point.

Popular ELISA kits

Here are the 212 most popular ELISA kits.

TNF Alpha elisa IL6 ELISA Cortisol ELISA VEGF elisa
BDNF elisa IFN Gamma elisa Adiponectin elisa IL-1 Beta elisa
IL10 ELISA IL-8 elisa Leptin elisa IL2 ELISA
IL-12 elisa Granzyme B elisa MPO elisa ADA elisa
APP elisa TGF Beta 1 elisa MAG elisa IL4 ELISA
MMP-9 elisa PLAT elisa Cystatin C elisa CCL2 ELISA
IL-17 elisa PD-L1 elisa APOE elisa NGF elisa
CXCL10 elisa PAI-1 elisa S100B elisa Galectin-3 elisa
EGF elisa Fibronectin elisa GM-CSF elisa MMP-3 elisa
Cortisol elisa Kit Insulin elisa Kit IL33 ELISA GDF-15 elisa
Resistin elisa FGF21 elisa AFP elisa Angiopoietin-2 elisa
Clusterin elisa P53 elisa IDS elisa Ferritin elisa Kit
MMP-1 elisa OPN elisa Endothelin 1 elisa PCSK9 elisa
HGF elisa G-CSF elisa VWF ELISA CXCL1 elisa
PD-1 elisa Caspase 3 elisa TIMP1 ELISA P-Selectin elisa
Tissue Factor elisa TRAIL elisa Fetuin A elisa Chemerin elisa
IL-15 elisa COMP elisa IL-22 elisa ANG ELISA
CEA elisa Periostin elisa Galectin-9 elisa MMP2 ELISA
TEK ELISA Cathepsin B elisa CXCL5 elisa CXCL9 elisa
VEGFC ELISA CCL17 elisa CXCL13 elisa IL-27 elisa
PEDF elisa ADAMTS13 elisa APOA1 elisa Eotaxin elisa
M-CSF elisa PLGF elisa RANK elisa Thrombomodulin elisa
MIA elisa HE4 elisa IL7 ELISA PDGF-AB elisa
C-MET elisa IL-1RA elisa Renin elisa FABP2 elisa
Fractalkine elisa CCL19 elisa CCL21 elisa Angiopoietin-1 elisa
Growth Hormone elisa CCL18 elisa THBS1 elisa TSLP elisa
SHBG elisa Hemopexin elisa TIM-3 elisa MMP7 ELISA
FAS elisa TREM2 elisa Myoglobin elisa Kit FGF2 elisa
GDNF elisa PTX3 elisa TGF-Beta 2 elisa Mesothelin elisa
Transthyretin elisa DKK1 ELISA FASL elisa CCL4 elisa
MMP-8 elisa OPG elisa Rantes elisa ACE elisa
CD40 elisa CXCL11 elisa Prostate Specific Antigen elisa Kit FGF7 elisa
Midkine elisa Uromodulin elisa PROC elisa IL11 ELISA
IL31 ELISA IL-3 elisa CCL8 elisa MIF elisa
RBP4 elisa TLR2 elisa FABP4 elisa B2M elisa
CD163 elisa MICA elisa Progranulin elisa FGF19 elisa
FOLR1 elisa Syndecan-1 elisa CEACAM1 elisa MUC1 ELISA
Amphiregulin elisa IL-5 elisa Decorin elisa S100A12 elisa
Tenascin-C elisa IL-32 elisa TFPI ELISA IL18BP ELISA
AXL elisa Aggrecan elisa ALCAM elisa ICAM1 ELISA

Related Pages

ELISA Sample Preparation

ELISAs can accurately assess soluble proteins in their native state, so they are ideal for samples such as urine or saliva. Check out the ELISA sample preparation guides to learn how to get the best results from your sample type.

Learn our ELISA Sample Preparation

ELISA Protocol

Learn stepwise ELISA protocols from reagent preparation to data analysis. Check out their differences to learn how they compare and their advantages and disadvantage.

Learn our ELISA protocol

ELISA Troubleshooting Tips

Get to know some ELISA troubleshooting tips with this Guide. It has some commonly encountered problems and solutions to ELISA.

Check our ELISA troubleshooting tips

ELISA Data analysis

Learn how to perform ELISA data analysis. Get to know the different aspects to consider for more consistent and accurate ELISA data. Furthermore, we provide a step-by-step guide to create a standard curve for analysis.

Browse ELISA Data analysis