Broadband Plasmonic Nanoantennas for Multi-Color Nanoscale Dynamics in Living Cells

Small. 2023 Jul;19(28):e2207977. doi: 10.1002/smll.202207977. Epub 2023 Mar 31.


Recently, the implementation of plasmonic nanoantennas has opened new possibilities to investigate the nanoscale dynamics of individual biomolecules in living cells. However, studies so far have been restricted to single molecular species as the narrow wavelength resonance of gold-based nanostructures precludes the simultaneous interrogation of different fluorescently labeled molecules. Here, broadband aluminum-based nanoantennas carved at the apex of near-field probes are exploited to resolve nanoscale-dynamic molecular interactions on living cell membranes. Through multicolor excitation, the authors simultaneously recorded fluorescence fluctuations of dual-color labeled transmembrane receptors known to form nanoclusters. Fluorescence cross-correlation studies revealed transient interactions between individual receptors in regions of ≈60 nm. Moreover, the high signal-to-background ratio provided by the antenna illumination allowed the authors to directly detect fluorescent bursts arising from the passage of individual receptors underneath the antenna. Remarkably, by reducing the illumination volume below the characteristic receptor nanocluster sizes, the molecular diffusion within nanoclusters is resolved and distinguished from nanocluster diffusion. Spatiotemporal characterization of transient interactions between molecules is crucial to understand how they communicate with each other to regulate cell function. This work demonstrates the potential of broadband photonic antennas to study multi-molecular events and interactions in living cell membranes with unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution.

Keywords: bowtie nanoaperture antennas; fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy; nanoscale lipid dynamics; photonic antennas; plasma membrane organization; receptor nanoclustering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Nanostructures* / chemistry
  • Nanotechnology
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence


  • Aluminum