Fluorescence microscopy is used extensively in cellbiological and biomedical research, but it is often plagued by three major problems with the presently available fluorescent probes: photobleaching, blinking, and large size. We have addressed these problems, with special attention to single-molecule imaging, by developing biocompatible, red-emitting silicon nanocrystals (SiNCs) with a 4.1-nm hydrodynamic diameter. Methods for producing SiNCs by simple chemical etching, for hydrophilically coating them, and for conjugating them to biomolecules precisely at a 1:1 ratio have been developed. Single SiNCs neither blinked nor photobleached during a 300-min overall period observed at video rate. Single receptor molecules in the plasma membrane of living cells (using transferrin receptor) were imaged for =10 times longer than with other probes, making it possible for the first time to observe the internalization process of receptor molecules at the single-molecule level. Spatial variations of molecular diffusivity in the scale of 1-2 μm, i.e., a higher level of domain mosaicism in the plasma membrane, were revealed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology