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Anal Chem. 2008 Aug 1;80(15):5951-7. doi: 10.1021/ac8005796. Epub 2008 Jul 1.

Nonbleaching fluorescence of gold nanoparticles and its applications in cancer cell imaging.

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  • 1College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Shanghai Jiaotong University, 800 Dongchuan Road, Shanghai, 200240, PR China.


In this paper, we investigated the fluorescent properties of gold nanoparticles (GNPs) with several tens of nanometers by ensemble fluorescence spectrometry, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), and fluorescence microscopy. We observed that GNPs synthesized by the citrate reduction of chloroauric acid possessed certain fluorescence, narrow full width at half-maximum (17 nm), and with an increase of particle sizes, the emission intensity showed a gradual increase while the emission wavelength remained almost constant (at 610 nm). Especially, the fluorescence of GNPs possessed the excellent behavior of antiphotobleaching under strong light illumination. Despite their low quantum yields, GNPs exhibited strong native fluorescence under relatively high excitation power. The fluorescence of GNPs could be characterized by fluorescence imaging and FCS at the single particle level. On the basis of this excellent antiphotobleaching of GNPs and easy photobleaching of cellular autofluorescence, we developed a new method for imaging of cells using GNPs as fluorescent probes. The principle of this method is that after cells stained with GNPs or GNPs bioconjugates are illuminated by strong light, the cellular autofluorescence are photobleached and the fluorescence of GNPs on cell membrane or inside cells can be collected for cell imaging. On the basis of this principle, we imaged living HeLa cells using GNPs as fluorescent probes and obtained good cell images by photobleaching of cellular autofluorescence. Furthermore, anti-EGFR/GNPs were successfully used as targeted probes for fluorescence imaging of cancer cells. Our preliminary results demonstrated that GNPs possessed excellent behaviors of antiphotobleaching and were good fluorescent probes in cell imaging. Our cellular imaging method described has potential applications in cancer diagnostics, studies, and immunoassays.

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