Intracellular Localized Surface Plasmonic Sensing for Subcellular Diagnosis


This paper proposes a method for diagnosing intracellular conditions and organelles of cells with localized surface plasmonic resonance (LSPR) by directly internalizing the gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) into the cells and measuring their plasmonic properties through hyperspectral imaging. This technique will be useful for direct diagnosis of cellular organelles, which have potential for cellular biology, proteomics, pharmaceuticals, drug discovery etc. Furthermore, localization and characterization of citrate-capped gold nanoparticles in HeLa cells were studied, by hyperspectral microscopy and other imaging techniques. Here, we present the method of internalizing the gold nanoparticles into the cells and subcellular organelles to facilitate subcellular plasmonic measurements. An advanced label-free visualization technique, namely hyperspectral microscopy providing images and spectral data simultaneously, was used to confirm the internalization of gold nanoparticles and to reveal their optical properties for possible intracellular plasmonic detection. Hyperspectral technology has proved to be effective in the analysis of the spectral profile of gold nanoparticles, internalized under different conditions. Using this relatively novel technique, it is possible to study the plasmonic properties of particles, localized in different parts of the cell. The position of the plasmon bands reflects the interactions of gold nanoparticles with different subcellular systems, including particle-nucleus interactions. Our results revealed the effect of the different intracellular interactions on the aggregation pattern of gold nanoparticles, inside the cells. This novel technique opens the door to intracellular plasmonics, an entirely new field, with important potential applications in life sciences. Similarly, the characterization of AuNP inside the cell was validated using traditional methods such as light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. Under the conditions studied in this work, gold nanoparticles were found to be non-toxic to HeLa (cervical cancer) cells.

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The authors are grateful for the help and support from Dr. Stewart Mills (CytoViva, Auburn, Alabama, USA) in hyperspectral imaging.


Financial support from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grant of A. Piekny and NSERC, Concordia Research Chair and Fonds de recherché Nature et technologies (FRQNT) grants of M. Packirisamy are also acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Muthukumaran Packirisamy.

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Kuruvinashetti, K., Kashani, A.S., Badilescu, S. et al. Intracellular Localized Surface Plasmonic Sensing for Subcellular Diagnosis. Plasmonics 13, 1639–1648 (2018).

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  • Intracellular plasmonics
  • Hyperspectral microscopy
  • Gold nanoparticles