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Fluorescent Nanoparticle Quantum Dots for Targeted Neuromodulation and Bioassay

T.Q. Vu, S. Golledge and S.S. Rajan
Oregon Health and Sciences University, US

receptor, drug, neuron, quantum dot, ligand

Increased interest in nanocrystal quantum dot (QD) technology as fluorescent probes possessing unprecedented brightness, photostability, and multi-color capability has made apparent their promising potential for live tracking of single cell and in vivo processes. Presently, QD biorecognition is largely achieved through attachment of antibodies to the QD surface, resulting in a bio–inorganic complex combining biomolecular-specificity with fluorescence. A less explored approach is to use small ligands or synthetic analogs that when conjugated to the QD, would bind not only to receptor proteins, but also serve to activate signaling cascades that regulate cellular phenotype and behavior.
Here we discuss the development of QDs complexed with nerve growth factor, a peptide hormone belonging to the family of neurotrophic factors that has generated therapeutic interest due to the ability of these factors to promote the survival of central and peripheral neurons after neuronal damage and during development.
Surface modification and composition of complexed QD nanostructures were confirmed and bioactivity of ligands and ligand-QD complexes were tested using functional imaging based assays. Despite known structural and chemical stringency of ligand-receptor activation, evidence supports activation and modulation of cell function and behavior.
Development of this QD-based capability bears significance for development of tools for studying inter-molecular interactions, assessing effectiveness of drug compounds, and visualization of cellular function for a variety of biological studies.

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