Autofluorescence-Free Live-Cell Imaging Using Terbium Nanoparticles

M. Cardoso Dos Santos, J. Goetz, H. Bartenlian, Ka-Leung WONG, L. J. Charbonnière, N. Hildebrandt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Fluorescent nanoparticles (NPs) have become irreplaceable tools for advanced cellular and subcellular imaging. While very bright NPs require excitation with UV or visible light, which can create strong autofluorescence of biological components, NIR-excitable NPs without autofluorescence issues exhibit much lower brightness. Here, we show the application of a new type of surface-photosensitized terbium NPs (Tb-NPs) for autofluorescence-free intracellular imaging in live HeLa cells. The combination of exceptionally high brightness, high photostability, and long photoluminecence (PL) lifetimes for highly efficient suppression of the short-lived autofluorescence allowed for time-gated PL imaging of intracellular vesicles over 72 h without toxicity and at extremely low Tb-NP concentrations down to 12 pM. Detection of highly resolved long-lifetime (ms) PL decay curves from small (∼10 μm 2 ) areas within single cells within a few seconds emphasized the unprecedented photophysical properties of Tb-NPs for live-cell imaging that extend well beyond currently available nanometric imaging agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1327-1334
Number of pages8
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry


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