Single nanoparticle photothermal tracking (SNaPT) of 5-nm gold beads in live cells

Biophys J. 2006 Dec 15;91(12):4598-604. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.106.089771. Epub 2006 Sep 22.


Tracking individual nano-objects in live cells during arbitrary long times is a ubiquitous need in modern biology. We present here a method for tracking individual 5-nm gold nanoparticles on live cells. It relies on the photothermal effect and the detection of the Laser Induced Scattering around a NanoAbsorber (LISNA). The key point for recording trajectories at video rate is the use of a triangulation procedure. The effectiveness of the method is tested against single fluorescent molecule tracking in live COS7 cells on subsecond timescales. We further demonstrate recordings for several minutes of AMPA receptors trajectories on the plasma membrane of live neurons. Single Nanoparticle Photothermal Tracking has the unique potential to record arbitrary long trajectory of membrane proteins using nonfluorescent nanometer-sized labels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • COS Cells
  • Carbocyanines
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Lasers
  • Light
  • Metal Nanoparticles*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism
  • Scattering, Radiation
  • Temperature


  • Carbocyanines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • cyanine dye 5
  • Gold