Raman microscopy is a powerful tool for analytical imaging. The wavelength shift of Raman scattering corresponds to molecular vibrational energy. Therefore, we can access rich chemical information, such as distribution, concentration, and chemical environment of sample molecules. Despite these strengths of Raman microscopy, the spatial resolution has been a limiting factor for many practical applications. In this study, we developed a large-area, high-resolution Raman microscope by utilizing structured illumination microscopy (SIM) to overcome the spatial resolution limit.
A structured line-illumination (SLI) Raman microscope was constructed. The structured illumination is introduced along the line direction by the interference of two line-shaped beams. In SIM, the spatial frequency mixing between structured illumination and Raman scattering from the sample allows access to the high spatial frequency information beyond the conventional cut-off. As a result, the FWHM of 40-nm fluorescence particle images showed a clear resolution enhancement in the line direction: 366 nm in LI and 199 nm in SLI microscope. Using the developed microscope, we successfully demonstrated high-resolution Raman imaging of various kinds of specimens, such as few-layer graphene, graphite, mouse brain tissue, and polymer nanoparticles.
The high resolution Raman images showed the capability to extract original spectral features from the mixed Raman spectra of a multi-component sample because of the enhanced spatial resolution, which is advantageous in observing complex spectral features. The Raman microscopy technique reported here enables us to see the detailed chemical structures of chemical, biological, and medical samples with a spatial resolution smaller than 200 nm.
Raman microscopy is useful for molecular imaging and analysis of biological specimens. Here, we used alkyne containing a carbon-carbon triple bond as a Raman tag for observing small molecules in live cells. Alkyne tags can maintain original properties of target molecules with providing high chemical specificity owing to its distinct peak in a Raman-silent window of biomolecules. For demonstrations, alkyne-tagged thymidine and coenzyme Q analogue in live cells were visualized with high-spatial resolution. We extended the application of alkyne-tag imaging to visualize cell organelles and specific lipid components in artificial monolayer membranes.
Two-photon excitation microscopy (TPEM) provides spatial resolution beyond the optical diffraction limit using the nonlinear response of fluorescent molecules. One of the strong advantages of TPEM is that it can be performed using a laser-scanning microscope without a complicated excitation method or computational post-processing. However, TPEM has not been recognized as a super-resolution microscopy due to the use of near-infrared light as excitation source, which provides lower resolution than visible light. In our research, we aimed for the realization of nonlinear fluorescence response with visible light excitation to perform super-resolution imaging using a laser-scanning microscope. The nonlinear fluorescence response with visible light excitation is achieved by developing a probe which provides stepwise two-photon excitation through photoinduced charge separation. The probe named nitro-bisBODIPY consists of two fluorescent molecules (electron donor: D) and one electron acceptor (A), resulting to the structure of D-A-D. Excited by an incident photon, nitro-bisBODIPY generates a charge-separated pair between one of the fluorescent molecules and the acceptor. Fluorescence emission is obtained only when one more incident photon is used to excite the other fluorescent molecule of the probe in the charge-separated state. This stepwise two-photon excitation by nitro-bisBODIPY was confirmed by detection of the 2nd order nonlinear fluorescence response using a confocal microscope with 488 nm CW excitation. The physical model of the stepwise two-photon excitation was investigated by building the energy diagram of nitro-bisBODIPY. Finally, we obtained the improvement of spatial resolution in fluorescence imaging of HeLa cells using nitro-bisBODIPY.
Raman spectral imaging has become a more and more popular technique in biological studies because it can extract
chemical information from living cells in a label-free manner. One of the most challenging issues in the label-free
Raman imaging of biological samples is to increase the molecular specificity in the spectra for better chemical contrast.
Usually, the Raman spectrum from a cell is dominated by a few strong Raman bands such as the amide I band around
1650 cm<sup>-1</sup>, CH<sub>2</sub> bend around 1445 cm<sup>-1</sup> or the amide III band around 1300 cm<sup>-1</sup> and it is not easy to get chemical contrast from other Raman bands that overlap with them. In this study, we aim to manipulate the chemical contrast in a living cell by exploiting the polarisation effects in Raman spectroscopy. By simply putting an analyser before the spectrometer, we can take the Raman image at the parallel and perpendicular polarisation against the incident light at the sample. The Raman spectra at the two orthogonal polarisations represent the Raman signals with different molecular orientation and symmetry of vibrations. Our experimental results demonstrate that at certain Raman shifts the two orthogonal polarisations indeed present different chemical contrasts. This indicates that polarized Raman imaging can help us visualise the different chemical contrasts that overlap at the same Raman shift and therefore increase the amount of chemical information we can get from cells.
Role of small molecules such as drugs or metabolites in cells is commonly studied by fluorescence microscopy in which
a fluorescent label is attached to the molecule. However, fluorescent labels are typically large that often interfere with the
normal cellular function of the molecule. To avoid the use of bulky fluorescent labels, we introduce a technique that uses
a simple small chemical tag called alkyne consisting of two carbons connected by a triple bond. The alkyne-tagged
molecule is imaged using Raman microscopy that detects the strong Raman signal from the CC triple bond stretching
vibration (~2120 cm<sup>-1</sup>). Because the alkyne signal is located in the silent region of the cell (1800-2700 cm<sup>-1</sup>), it does not
interfere with any intrinsic cellular Raman signals. Here, we demonstrate this technique by showing Raman images of an
alkyne-tagged component of DNA in a living cell using a slit-scanning confocal Raman microscope. This fast imaging
technique is based on a line-shaped focus illumination and simultaneous detection of the Raman spectra from multiple
points of the sample. Using this microscope, we obtained time-course Raman images of the incorporation of EdU in the
DNA of HeLa cells in just several tens of minutes.