Plasmonic nanoparticles for imaging intracellular biomarkers
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Molecular optical imaging enables the ability to non-invasively image biological function. When used in conjunction with optical contrast agents, molecular imaging can provide biomarker-specific information with subcellular spatial resolution. Plasmonic nanoparticles are unique optical contrast agents due to the fact that the intensity and peak wavelength of scattering is dependant on interparticle spacing. This distance dependance puts these nanosensors in a position to probe molecular interactions by exploiting contrast between isolated and closely spaced nanoparticles. This dissertation presents the first intracellular molecular imaging platform using multifunctional gold nanoparticles which incorporate both cytosolic delivery and targeting moieties on the same particle. In order to produce robust nanosensors, a novel conjugation strategy was developed involving a heterofunctional linker capable of rigidly attaching various components to the nanoparticle surface. Since most biomarkers of interest are localized intracellularly, the delivery functionality was a key focus. It was achieved using the TAT-HA2 fusion peptide which has been previously shown to enhance both endosomal uptake and subsequent release into the cytosol. The feasibility of these nanoparticles as intracellular sensors was proposed by attempting to image actin rearrangement in live fibroblasts. The assembly of nanoparticles at the leading of motile cells was which was potentially due to actin targeting resulted in a red shift in scattering maxima due to plasmon resonance coupling between particles as well as a dramatic increase in scattering intensity. Although several challenges still exist, the potential for these contrast agents as nanosensors for the presence of proteins implicated in viral carcinogenesis is also introduced.