Single-Chirality Near-Infrared Carbon Nanotube Sub-Cellular Imaging and FRET Probes

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Applications of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) in bioimaging and biosensing have been limited by difficulties with isolating single-chirality nanotube preparations with desired functionalities. Unique optical properties, such as multiple narrow near-infrared bands and several modes of signal transduction, including solvatochromism and FRET, are ideal for live cell/organism imaging and sensing applications. However, internanotube FRET has not been investigated in biological contexts. We developed single-chirality subcellular SWCNT imaging probes and investigated their internanotube FRET capabilities in live cells. To functionalize SWCNTs, we replaced the surfactant coating of aqueous two-phase extraction-sorted single-chirality nanotubes with helical polycarbodiimide polymers containing different functionalities. We achieved single-chirality SWCNT targeting of different subcellular structures, including the nucleus, to enable multiplexed imaging. We also targeted purified (6,5) and (7,6) chiralities to the same structures and observed internanotube FRET within these organelles. This work portends the use of single-chirality carbon nanotube optical probes for applications in biomedical research.

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Nano Letters