Visualizing Oxidative Cellular Stress Induced by Nanoparticles in the Subcytotoxic Range Using Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging


Nanoparticles hold a great promise in biomedical science. However, due to their unique physical and chemical properties they can lead to overproduction of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS). As an important mechanism of nanotoxicity, there is a great need for sensitive and high‐throughput adaptable single‐cell ROS detection methods. Here, fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) is employed for single‐cell ROS detection (FLIM‐ROX) providing increased sensitivity and enabling high‐throughput analysis in fixed and live cells. FLIM‐ROX owes its sensitivity to the discrimination of autofluorescence from the unique fluorescence lifetime of the ROS reporter dye. The effect of subcytotoxic amounts of cationic gold nanoparticles in J774A.1 cells and primary human macrophages on ROS generation is investigated. FLIM‐ROX measures very low ROS levels upon gold nanoparticle exposure, which is undetectable by the conventional method. It is demonstrated that cellular morphology changes, elevated senescence, and DNA damage link the resulting low‐level oxidative stress to cellular adverse effects and thus nanotoxicity. Multiphoton FLIM‐ROX enables the quantification of spatial ROS distribution in vivo, which is shown for skin tissue as a target for nanoparticle exposure. Thus, this innovative method allows identifying of low‐level ROS in vitro and in vivo and, subsequently, promotes understanding of ROS‐associated nanotoxicity.
QR Code: Link to publication