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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2007, Article ID 68963, 9 pages
Review Article

Getting Across the Plasma Membrane and Beyond: Intracellular Uses of Colloidal Semiconductor Nanocrystals

1INSERM U 603, CNRS UMR 8154, Laboratory of Neurophysiology and New Microscopies, University Paris Descartes, 45 rue des Saints Pères, Paris 75006, France
2ENS-CNRS UMR 8544, Laboratoire de Neurobiologie, Département de Biologie, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, Paris 75005, France
3ENS-CNRS UMR 8642, Département de Chimie, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 24 rue Lhomond, Paris 75231, France
4Center for Nanoscience, Ludwig-Maximilans Universität Munich, Amalienstraße 54, Munich 80799, Germany

Received 13 April 2007; Accepted 12 October 2007

Academic Editor: Marek Osinski

Copyright © 2007 Camilla Luccardini et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Semiconductor nanocrystals (NCs) are increasingly being used as photoluminescen markers in biological imaging. Their brightness, large Stokes shift, and high photostability compared to organic fluorophores permit the exploration of biological phenomena at the single-molecule scale with superior temporal resolution and spatial precision. NCs have predominantly been used as extracellular markers for tagging and tracking membrane proteins. Successful internalization and intracellular labelling with NCs have been demonstrated for both fixed immunolabelled and live cells. However, the precise localization and subcellular compartment labelled are less clear. Generally, live cell studies are limited by the requirement of fairly invasive protocols for loading NCs and the relatively large size of NCs compared to the cellular machinery, along with the subsequent sequestration of NCs in endosomal/lysosomal compartments. For long-period observation the potential cytotoxicity of cytoplasmically loaded NCs must be evaluated. This review focuses on the challenges of intracellular uses of NCs.