The highly sensitive and sequence-specific detection of single-stranded oligonucleotides using nonoxidized silicon nanowires (SiNWs) is demonstrated. To maximize device sensitivity, the surface of the SiNWs was functionalized with a densely packed organic monolayer via hydrosilylation, subsequently immobilized with peptide nucleic acid (PNA) capable of recognizing the label-free complementary target DNA. Because of the selective functionalization of the SiNWs, binding competition between the nanowire and the underlying oxide is avoided. Transmission electron microscopy was conducted to clearly differentiate the SiNW surface before and after removal of SiO2. Fluorescence microscopy was used to further realize the selectivity of the oxide-etched chemistry on the SiNWs and sequence specificity of PNA-DNA hybridization. The concentration-dependent resistance change measurements upon hybridization of PNA-DNA show that detection limit down to 10 fM can be obtained. The SiNW devices also reveal the capability of an obvious discrimination against mismatched sequences. Among several efforts being made to improve detection sensitivity, this work addresses one significant issue regarding surface functionalization which enables highly sensitive biomolecular sensing with SiNWs. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.