Controlled Fluorescent Labelling of Metal Oxide Nanoparticles for Artefact-free Live Cell Microscopy
Kokot B., Kokot H., Umek P., Midden KP., Pajk S., Garvas M., Eggeling C., Koklič T., Urbančič I., Štrancar J.
Nanotechnologies hold great promise for various applications. To predict and guarantee the safety of novel nanomaterials, it is essential to understand their mechanism of action in an organism, causally connecting adverse outcomes with early molecular events. They are best investigated using non-invasive advanced optical methods, such as high-resolution live-cell fluorescence microscopy, which require stable labelling of nanoparticles with fluorescent dyes. When performed inadequately, unbound fluorophores and inadvertently altered chemical and physical properties of the nanoparticles can, however, result in experimental artefacts and erroneous conclusions. To prevent such unintentional errors, we here describe a minimal combination of experimental methods to enable artefact-free fluorescent labelling of metal-oxide nanoparticles - the largest subpopulation of nanoparticles by industrial production and applications - and demonstrate its application in the case of TiO2 nanotubes. We 1) characterize potential changes of the nanoparticles' surface charge and morphology that might occur during labelling, and 2) assess stable binding of the fluorescent dye to nanomaterial, which ensures correct nanoparticle localization. Together, these steps warrant the reliability and reproducibility of advanced optical tracking, which is necessary to explore nanomaterials' mechanism of action and will foster widespread and safe use of new nanomaterials.