A novel method of imaging lysosomes in living human mammary epithelial cells

Mol Imaging. 2003 Jan;2(1):24-36. doi: 10.1162/153535003765276264.


Cancer cells invade by secreting degradative enzymes which, under normal conditions, are sequestered in lysosomal vesicles. The ability to noninvasively label lysosomes and track lysosomal trafficking would be extremely useful to understand the mechanisms by which degradative enzymes are secreted in the presence of pathophysiological environments, such as hypoxia and acidic extracellular pH, which are frequently encountered in solid tumors. In this study, a novel method of introducing a fluorescent label into lysosomes of human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) was evaluated. Highly glycosylated lysosomal membrane proteins were labeled with a newly synthesized compound, 5-dimethylamino-naphthalene-1-sulfonic acid 5-amino-3,4,6-trihydroxy-tetrahydro-pyran-2-ylmethyl ester (6-O-dansyl-GlcNH2). The ability to optically image lysosomes using this new probe was validated by determining the colocalization of the fluorescence from the dansyl group with immunofluorescent staining of two well-established lysosomal marker proteins, LAMP-1 and LAMP-2. The location of the dansyl group in lysosomes was also verified by using an anti-dansyl antibody in Western blots of lysosomes isolated using isopycnic density gradient centrifugation. This novel method of labeling lysosomes biosynthetically was used to image lysosomes in living HMECs perfused in a microscopy-compatible cell perfusion system.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Acetylglucosamine / pharmacokinetics
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Breast / metabolism*
  • Breast / ultrastructure*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / ultrastructure
  • Cell Line
  • Dansyl Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Lysosome-Associated Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Lysosomes / metabolism*
  • Lysosomes / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antigens, CD
  • Dansyl Compounds
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Lysosome-Associated Membrane Glycoproteins
  • dansyl N-acetylglucosamine
  • Acetylglucosamine