In order to enhance the sensitivity of conventional immunoassay technology for the detection of SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) nucleocapsid protein (N protein), we developed a localized surface plasmon coupled fluorescence (LSPCF) fiber-optic biosensor that combines sandwich immunoassay with the LSP technique. Experimentally, a linear relationship between the fluorescence signal and the concentration of recombinant SARS-CoV N (GST-N) protein in buffer solution could be observed from 0.1 pg/mL to 1 ng/mL In addition, the concentration of GST-N protein in diluted serum across a similar range could also be measured. The correlation coefficients (linear scale) for these two measurements were 0.9469 and 0.9624, respectively. In comparison with conventional enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), the detection limit of the LSPCF fiber-optic biosensor for the GST-N protein was improved at least 10(4)-fold using the same monoclonal antibodies. Therefore, the LSPCF fiber-optic biosensor shows an ability to detect very low concentration (similar to 1 pg/mL) of SARS-CoV N protein in serum. The biosensor should help with the early diagnosis of SARS infection. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.