Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based assemblies currently comprise a significant portion of intracellularly based sensors. Although extremely useful, the fluorescent protein pairs typically utilized in such sensors are still plagued by many photophysical issues including significant direct acceptor excitation, small changes in FRET efficiency, and limited photostability. Luminescent semiconductor nanocrystals or quantum dots (QDs) are characterized by many unique optical properties including size-tunable photoluminescence, broad excitation profiles coupled to narrow emission profiles, and resistance to photobleaching, which can cumulatively overcome many of the issues associated with use of fluorescent protein FRET donors. Utilizing QDs for intracellular FRET-based sensing still requires significant development in many areas including materials optimization, bioconjugation, cellular delivery and assay design and implementation. We are currently developing several QD-based FRET sensors for various intracellular applications. These include sensors targeting intracellular proteolytic activity along with those based on theranostic nanodevices for monitoring drug release. The protease sensor is based on a unique design where an intracellularly expressed fluorescent acceptor protein substrate assembles onto a QD donor following microinjection, forming an active complex that can be monitored in live cells over time. In the theranostic configuration, the QD is conjugated to a carrier protein-drug analogue complex to visualize real-time intracellular release of the drug from its carrier in response to an external stimulus. The focus of this talk will be on the design, properties, photophysical characterization and cellular application of these sensor constructs.
Lauren D. Field, Scott A. Walper, Kimihiro Susumu, Eunkeu Oh, Igor L. Medintz, and James B. Delehanty, "Semiconductor quantum dots as Förster resonance energy transfer donors for intracellularly-based biosensors," Proc. SPIE 10078, Colloidal Nanoparticles for Biomedical Applications XII, 100780N (Presented at SPIE BiOS: January 29, 2017; Published: 22 February 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2250899.
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