Energy-Transfer Schemes to Probe Fluorescent Nanocarriers and Their Emissive Cargo

Ek Raj Thapaliya, Colin Fowley, Bridgeen Callan, Sicheng Tang, Yang Zhang, John F. Callan*, Françisco M. Raymo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


A strategy to probe supramolecular nanocarriers and their cargo in the intracellular space was developed on the basis of fluorescence measurements and energy transfer. It relies on the covalent attachment of an energy donor, or acceptor, to the macromolecular backbone of amphiphilic polymers and the noncovalent encapsulation of a complementary acceptor, or donor, in the resulting micelles. In aqueous environments, these macromolecules self-assemble into nanostructured constructs and bring the complementary chromophores in close proximity to enable efficient energy transfer. These supramolecular assemblies travel from the extracellular to the intracellular space and retain their integrity in the process. Indeed, donors and acceptors remain close to each other after internalization, and excitation of the former chromophores translates into significant intracellular emission from the latter. Furthermore, these supramolecular assemblies exchange their components with fast kinetics in aqueous dispersions because of the reversible character of the noncovalent contacts holding them together. As a result, micelles incorporating exclusively the donors and nanocarriers containing only the acceptors scramble their chromophoric building blocks, upon mixing, to allow the transfer of energy. These dynamic processes can be reproduced in the intracellular environment with the sequential incubation of cells with the two sets of complementary nanostructured assemblies. Thus, these operating principles and choice of supramolecular synthons are particularly valuable to monitor self-assembling nanocarriers and their cargo inside living cells and can facilitate the elucidation of the behavior of these promising delivery vehicles in a diversity of biological specimens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9557-9565
Number of pages9
Issue number35
StatePublished - Sep 8 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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