Label-Free Live-Cell Imaging of Internalized Microplastics and Cytoplasmic Organelles with Multicolor CARS Microscopy

Dae Sik Choi, Sohee Lim, Jin Sung Park, Chang Ho Kim, Hanju Rhee, Minhaeng Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


As the bioaccumulation of microplastics (MPs) is considered as a potential health risk, many efforts have been made to understand the cellular dynamics and cytotoxicity of MPs. Here, we demonstrate that label-free multicolor coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy enables separate vibrational imaging of internalized MPs and lipid droplets (LDs) with indistinguishable shapes and sizes in live cells. By simultaneously obtaining polystyrene (PS)- and lipid-specific CARS images at two very different frequencies, 1000 and 2850 cm-1, respectively, we successfully identify the local distribution of ingested PS beads and native LDs in Caenorhabditis elegans. We further show that the movements of PS beads and LDs in live cells can be separately tracked in real time, which allows us to characterize their individual intracellular dynamics. We thus anticipate that our multicolor CARS imaging method could be of great use to investigate the cellular transport and cytotoxicity of MPs without additional efforts for pre-labeling to MPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3045-3055
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by IBS-R023-D1 for M.C. and the Korea Basic Science Institute (KBSI Grant C140670) for H.R.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society


  • label-free live-cell imaging
  • lipid droplet
  • microplastic internalization
  • multicolor CARS microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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