Silver nanoparticle plasmonic enhanced förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) imaging of protein-specific sialylation on the cell surface

Nanoscale. 2017 Jul 20;9(28):9841-9847. doi: 10.1039/c7nr01562c.


A large amount of proteins are post-translationally modified with a sialic acid terminal oligosaccharide, and sialylation directly affects the function of glycoproteins and adjusts relevant biological processes. Herein, we developed a method for imaging analysis of protein-specific sialylation on the cell surface via silver nanoparticle (AgNPs) plasmonic enhanced Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET). In this strategy, the target monosaccharide was labelled with the FRET acceptor of Cy5 via bioorthogonal chemistry. In addition, aptamer linked AgNPs were combined with the Cy3 fluorophore by DNA hybridization as the FRET donor probe, which could be conjugated to the target glycoprotein based on specific aptamer-protein recognition. The Cy5 fluorescence signal was obtained under the Cy3 excitation wavelength via FRET. Moreover, the FRET fluorescence signal was obviously enhanced owing to the plasmonic effect of AgNPs at an appropriate distance to Cy3 on the cell surface. Hence, the protein-specific sialic acids were detected with high contrast. The results showed that the AgNP plasmonic enhanced FRET method was not only superior to the bare FRET method but also can be used to evaluate the expression of sialoglycoproteins in different cell types under pharmacological treatments. The AgNP plasmonic enhanced FRET method provides a valuable tool in the research of glycan metabolism biological processes, the active site of glycoproteins and drug screening.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Glycoproteins / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Sialic Acids
  • Silver*
  • Tunicamycin / pharmacology


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Glycoproteins
  • Sialic Acids
  • Tunicamycin
  • Silver
  • PTK7 protein, human
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases