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Bioconjugation of Ultrabright Semiconducting Polymer Dots for Specific Cellular Targeting

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journal contribution
posted on 03.11.2010, 00:00 by Changfeng Wu, Thomas Schneider, Maxwell Zeigler, Jiangbo Yu, Perry G. Schiro, Daniel R. Burnham, Jason D. McNeill, Daniel T. Chiu
Semiconducting polymer dots (Pdots) represent a new class of ultrabright fluorescent probes for biological imaging. They exhibit several important characteristics for experimentally demanding in vitro and in vivo fluorescence studies, such as their high brightness, fast emission rate, excellent photostability, nonblinking, and nontoxic feature. However, controlling the surface chemistry and bioconjugation of Pdots has been a challenging problem that prevented their widespread applications in biological studies. Here, we report a facile yet powerful conjugation method that overcomes this challenge. Our strategy for Pdot functionalization is based on entrapping heterogeneous polymer chains into a single dot, driven by hydrophobic interactions during nanoparticle formation. A small amount of amphiphilic polymer bearing functional groups is co-condensed with the majority of semiconducting polymers to modify and functionalize the nanoparticle surface for subsequent covalent conjugation to biomolecules, such as streptavidin and immunoglobulin G (IgG). The Pdot bioconjugates can effectively and specifically label cellular targets, such as cell surface marker in human breast cancer cells, without any detectable nonspecific binding. Single-particle imaging, cellular imaging, and flow cytometry experiments indicate a much higher fluorescence brightness of Pdots compared to those of Alexa dye and quantum dot probes. The successful bioconjugation of these ultrabright nanoparticles presents a novel opportunity to apply versatile semiconducting polymers to various fluorescence measurements in modern biology and biomedicine.