A DNA nanomachine chemically resolves lysosomes in live cells

Nat Nanotechnol. 2019 Feb;14(2):176-183. doi: 10.1038/s41565-018-0318-5. Epub 2018 Dec 3.


Lysosomes are multifunctional, subcellular organelles with roles in plasma membrane repair, autophagy, pathogen degradation and nutrient sensing. Dysfunctional lysosomes underlie Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and rare lysosomal storage diseases, but their contributions to these pathophysiologies are unclear. Live imaging has revealed lysosome subpopulations with different physical characteristics including dynamics, morphology or cellular localization. Here, we chemically resolve lysosome subpopulations using a DNA-based combination reporter that quantitatively images pH and chloride simultaneously in the same lysosome while retaining single-lysosome information in live cells. We call this technology two-ion measurement or 2-IM. 2-IM of lysosomes in primary skin fibroblasts derived from healthy individuals shows two main lysosome populations, one of which is absent in primary cells derived from patients with Niemann-Pick disease. When patient cells are treated with relevant therapeutics, the second population re-emerges. Chemically resolving lysosomes by 2-IM could enable decoding the mechanistic underpinnings of lysosomal diseases, monitoring disease progression or evaluating therapeutic efficacy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calibration
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • Endosomes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ions
  • Lysosomes / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*


  • Ions
  • DNA