Probing the intracellular fate of supramolecular nanocarriers and their cargo with FRET schemes

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


We designed a strategy to monitor self-assembling supramolecular nanocarriers and their cargo simultaneously in the intracellular space with fluorescence measurements. It is based on Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) between complementary chromophores covalently integrated in the macromolecular backbone of amphiphilic polymers and/or noncovalently encapsulated in supramolecular assemblies of the amphiphilic components. Indeed, these polymers assemble into a micelles in aqueous phase to bring energy donors and acceptors in close proximity and allow energy transfer. The resulting supramolecular assemblies maintain their integrity after travelling into the intracellular space and do not lose their molecular guests in the process. Furthermore, this mechanism can also be exploited to probe the fate of complementary nanoparticles introduced within cells in consecutive incubation steps. Efficient energy transfer occurs in the intracellular space after the sequential incubation of nanocarriers incorporating donors first and then nanoparticles containing acceptors or vice versa. The two sets of nanostructured assemblies ultimately co-localize in the cell interior to bring donors and acceptors together and enable energy transfer. Thus, this protocol is particularly valuable to monitor the transport properties of supramolecular nanocarriers inside living cells and can eventually contribute to the fundamental understating of the ability of these promising vehicles to deliver contrast agents and/or drugs intracellularly in view of possible diagnostics and/or therapeutic applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationColloidal Nanoparticles for Biomedical Applications XII
EditorsMarek Osinski, Wolfgang J. Parak, Xing-Jie Liang
ISBN (Electronic)9781510605978
StatePublished - 2017
EventColloidal Nanoparticles for Biomedical Applications XII 2017 - San Francisco, United States
Duration: Jan 28 2017Jan 31 2017

Publication series

NameProgress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE
ISSN (Print)1605-7422


ConferenceColloidal Nanoparticles for Biomedical Applications XII 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco


  • Amphiphilic polymers
  • energy transfer
  • fluorescence imaging
  • nanocarriers
  • nanoparticles
  • self-assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Biomaterials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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