Atomic Force Microscope Based Near-field Imaging for Probing Cell Surface Interactions
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Near-membrane and trans-membrane proteins and their interactions with the extracellular matrix (ECM) can yield valuable information about cell dynamics. However, advances in the field of nanoscale cellular processes have been hindered, in part, due to limits imposed by current technology. In this work, a novel evanescent field (EF) imaging technique is designed, modeled, created and tested for near-field imaging in the apical surface of cells. This technique and F?rster resonance energy transfer (FRET) were used to investigate interactions between integrins on the cell surface and the ECM protein, fibronectin. The goal was to monitor changes in the integrin density at the cell surface as a function of clustering after binding to fibronectin on the microsphere surface. For the EF technique, quantum dot (QD)-embedded polystyrene microspheres were used to couple light into whispering gallery modes (WGMs) inside the microspheres; the resulting EF at the surface of the microsphere was used as a near-field excitation source with ~50 nm axial resolution for exciting fluorescently-labeled integrins. For FRET measurements (~10 nm axial resolution), QDs (donors) were coated on the surface of microspheres and energy transfer to red fluorescent protein (RFP)-integrin constructs (acceptors) studied. In both techniques, the QD-modified microspheres were mounted on atomic force microscope (AFM) cantilevers, functionalized with fibronectin, and brought into contact with fluorescently-labeled HeLa or vascular smooth muscle (VSM) cells. The results obtained from both methods show the clustering and activity of the integrins and are in good agreement with each other. Amsterdam discrete dipole approximation (ADDA) was used to study the effects of inhomogeneous surrounding refractive index on the quality factor and position of the WGMs due to the attachment of a microsphere to an AFM cantilever. WGMs of various QD-embedded microspheres mounted on AFM cantilevers were experimentally measured and shown to be consistent with the model.