We demonstrate photonic crystal enhanced fluorescence (PCEF) microscopy as a surface-specific fluorescence imaging technique to study the adhesion of live cells by visualizing variations in cell-substrate gap distance. This approach utilizes a photonic crystal surface incorporated into a standard microscope slide as the substrate for cell adhesion, and a microscope integrated with a custom illumination source as the detection instrument. When illuminated with a monochromatic light source, angle-specific optical resonances supported by the photonic crystal enable efficient excitation of surface-confined and amplified electromagnetic fields when excited at an on-resonance condition, while no field enhancement occurs when the same photonic crystal is illuminated in an off-resonance state. By mapping the fluorescence enhancement factor for fluorophore-tagged cellular components between on- and off-resonance states and comparing the results to numerical calculations, the vertical distance of labelled cellular components from the photonic crystal substrate can be estimated, providing critical and quantitative information regarding the spatial distribution of the specific components of cells attaching to a surface. As an initial demonstration of the concept, 3T3 fibroblast cells were grown on fibronectin-coated photonic crystals with fluorophore-labelled plasma membrane or nucleus. We demonstrate that PCEF microscopy is capable of providing information about the spatial distribution of cell-surface interactions at the single-cell level that is not available from other existing forms of microscopy, and that the approach is amenable to large fields of view, without the need for coupling prisms, coupling fluids, or special microscope objectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5954-5963
Number of pages10
Issue number22
StatePublished - Oct 15 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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