Illuminating Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Densities on Filopodia through Plasmon Coupling

J. Wang, S.V. Boriskina, H. Wang, B.M. Reinhard
Boston University, US

Keywords: epidermal growth factor receptor, filopodia, immunolabels, molecular imaging, nanoplasmonics, receptor clustering, nano-bio interface


Filopodia have been hypothesized to act as remote sensors of the cell environment, but many details of the sensor function remain unclear. We investigated the distribution of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) density on filopodia and on the dorsal cell membrane of A431 human epidermoid carcinoma cells using a nanoplasmonic enabled imaging tool. We targeted cell surface EGFR with 40 nm diameter Au nanoparticles (NPs) using a high affinity multivalent labeling strategy. Distance-dependent near-field interactions between the labels generated a NP density (ρ)-dependent spectral response that facilitated a spatial mapping of the EGFR density distribution on subcellular length scales in an optical microscope in solution. The measured ρ values were significantly higher on filopodia than on the cellular surface, which is indicative of an enrichment of EGFR on filopodia. A detailed characterization of the spatial distribution of the NP immunolabels through scanning electron microscopy (SEM) confirmed the findings of the all-optical plasmon coupling studies and provided additional structural details. The NPs exhibited a preferential association with the sides of the filopodia. The performed correlated spectroscopic/SEM studies pave the way toward quantitative immunolabeling studies of EGFR and other important cell surface receptors in an optical microscope.