Early response of cancer cells to chemical compounds and chemotherapeutic drugs were studied using novel fluorescence tools and microscopy techniques. We applied confocal microscopy, two-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy and super-resolution localization-based microscopy to assess structural and functional changes in cancer cells in vitro. The dynamics of energy metabolism, intracellular pH, caspase-3 activation during staurosporine-induced apoptosis as well as actin cytoskeleton rearrangements under chemotherapy were evaluated. We have showed that new genetically encoded sensors and advanced fluorescence microscopy methods provide an efficient way for multiparameter analysis of cell activities
Super-resolution techniques for breaking the diffraction barrier are spread out over multiple studies nowadays. Single-molecule localization microscopy such as PALM, STORM, GSDIM, etc allow to get super-resolved images of cell ultrastructure by precise localization of individual fluorescent molecules via their temporal isolation. However, these methods are supposed the use of fluorescent dyes and proteins with special characteristics (photoactivation/photoconversion). At the same time, there is a need for retaining high photostability of fluorophores during long-term acquisition. Here, we first showed the potential of common red fluorescent protein for single-molecule localization microscopy based on spontaneous intrinsic blinking. Also, we assessed the effect of different imaging media on photobleaching of these fluorescent proteins. Monomeric orange and red fluorescent proteins were examined for stochastic switching from a dark state to a bright fluorescent state. We studied fusions with cytoskeletal proteins in NIH/3T3 and HeLa cells. Imaging was performed on the Nikon N-STORM system equipped with EMCCD camera. To define the optimal imaging conditions we tested several types of cell culture media and buffers. As a result, high-resolution images of cytoskeleton structure were obtained. Essentially, low-intensity light was sufficient to initiate the switching of tested red fluorescent protein reducing phototoxicity and provide long-term live-cell imaging.
Despite of the success of photodynamic therapy (PDT) in cancer treatment, the problems of low selective accumulation of a photosensitizer in a tumor and skin phototoxicity have not resolved yet. The idea of encoding of a photosensitizer in genome of cancer cells is attractive, particularly because it can provide highly selective light induced cell killing. This work is aimed at the development of new approach to PDT of cancer, namely to using genetically encoded photosensitizers. A phototoxicity of red fluorescent GFP-like protein KillerRed and FMN-binding protein miniSOG was investigated on HeLa tumor xenografts in nude mice. The tumors were generated by subcutaneous injection of HeLa cells stably expressing the phototoxic proteins. The tumors were irradiated with 594 nm or 473 nm laser at 150 mW/cm2 for 20 or 30 min, repeatedly. Fluorescence intensity of the tumors was measured in vivo before and after each treatment procedure. Detailed pathomorphological analysis was performed 24 h after the therapy. On the epi-fluorescence images in vivo photobleaching of both proteins was observed indicating photodynamic reaction. Substantial pathomorphological abnormalities were found in the treated KillerRed-expressing tumor tissue, such as vacuolization of cytoplasm, cellular and nuclear membrane destruction, activation of apoptosis. In contrast, miniSOG-expressing tumors displayed no reaction to PDT, presumably due to the lack of FMN cofactor needed for fluorescence recovery of the flavoprotein. The results are of interest for photodynamic therapy as a proof of possibility to induce photodamages in cancer cells in vivo using genetically encoded photosensitizers.