A Quantum Dot Photoswitch for DNA Detection, Gene Transfection, and Live-Cell Imaging



Quantum dots (QDs) coated with an albumin-derived copolymer shell exhibit significant photoresponsiveness to DNA loading and have great potential for investigating gene delivery processes. The QDs reported herein are positively charged, have attractive optical properties, and are noncytotoxic and notably stable in live cells. Their complex formation with plasmid DNA leads to proportionally decreased photoluminescence and efficient gene transfection is observed. Therefore, they are suitable for live-cell bioimaging and mechanistic studies of nonviral gene delivery. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy is applied for the first time to investigate individual QDs diffusing in large endosomes inside living cells, and serves as a valuable tool to study the physical properties of QDs inside live cells. The data obtained in this study strongly support the notable stability of these QDs, even in cell endosomes.