Luciferase-Decorated Gold Nanorods as Dual-Modal Contrast Agents for Tumor-Targeted High-Performance Bioluminescence/Photoacoustic Imaging

Jingyu Zhang, Bin Guo, Yiyi Jiang, Chong Hu, Jaewon Kim, Snehasish Debnath, Xiaorui Shi, Chuanxian Zhang, Jong Seung Kim, Fu Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gold nanorods (AuNRs) have been considered highly compelling materials for early cancer diagnosis and have aroused a burgeoning fascination among the biomedical sectors. By leveraging the versatile tunable optical properties of AuNRs, herein, we have developed a novel tumor-targeted dual-modal nanoprobe (FFA) that exhibits excellent bioluminescence and photoacoustic imaging performance for early tumor diagnosis. FFA has been synthesized by anchoring the recombinant bioluminescent firefly luciferase protein (Fluc) on the folate-conjugated AuNRs via the PEG linker. TEM images and UV-vis studies confirm the nanorod morphology and successful conjugation of the biomolecules to AuNRs. The nanoprobe FFA relies on the ability of the folate module to target the folate receptor-positive tumor cells actively, and simultaneously, the Fluc module facilitates excellent bioluminescent properties in physiological conditions. The success of chemical engineering in the present study enables stronger bioluminescent signals in the folate receptor-positive cells (Skov3, Hela, and MCF-7) than in folate receptor-negative cells (A549, 293T, MCF-10A, and HepG2). Additionally, the AuNRs induced strong photoacoustic conversion performance, enhancing the resolution of tumor imaging. No apparent toxicity was detected at the cellular and mouse tissue levels, manifesting the biocompatibility nature of the nanoprobe. Prompted by the positive merits of FFA, the in vivo animal studies were performed, and a notable enhancement was observed in the bioluminescent/photoacoustic intensity of the nanoprobe in the tumor region compared to that in the folate-blocking region. Therefore, this synergistic dual-modal bioluminescent and photoacoustic imaging platform holds great potential as a tumor-targeted contrast agent for early tumor diagnosis with high-performance imaging information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9132-9140
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical chemistry
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Jun 4

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 American Chemical Society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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