Controlled Grafting Expansion Microscopy

Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2023 Jul 10;62(28):e202302318. doi: 10.1002/anie.202302318. Epub 2023 May 26.


Expansion microscopy (ExM) is a recently developed technique that allows for the resolution of structures below the diffraction limit by physically enlarging a hydrogel-embedded facsimile of the biological sample. The target structure is labeled and this label must be retained in a relative position true to the original, smaller state before expansion by linking it into the gel. However, gel formation and digestion lead to a significant loss in target-delivered label, resulting in weak signal. To overcome this problem, we have here developed an agent combining targeting, fluorescent labeling and gel linkage in a single small molecule. Similar approaches in the past have still suffered from significant loss of label. Here we show that this loss is due to insufficient surface grafting of fluorophores into the hydrogel and develop a solution by increasing the amount of target-bound monomers. Overall, we obtain a significant improvement in fluorescence signal retention and our new dye allows the resolution of nuclear pores as ring-like structures, similar to STED microscopy. We furthermore provide mechanistic insight into dye retention in ExM.

Keywords: Expansion Microscopy; Grafting; SNAP-Tag; Super-Resolution Microscopy; Trifunctional Probe.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fluorescent Dyes* / chemistry
  • Hydrogels* / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Hydrogels