Dynamic Fluorescence Microscopy of Cellular Uptake of Intercalating Model Drugs by Ultrasound-Activated Microbubbles

B H A Lammertink, R Deckers, M Derieppe, I De Cock, I Lentacker, G Storm, C T W Moonen, C Bos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


PURPOSE: The combination of ultrasound and microbubbles can facilitate cellular uptake of (model) drugs via transient permeabilization of the cell membrane. By using fluorescent molecules, this process can be studied conveniently with confocal fluorescence microscopy. This study aimed to investigate the relation between cellular uptake and fluorescence intensity increase of intercalating model drugs.

PROCEDURES: SYTOX Green, an intercalating fluorescent dye that displays >500-fold fluorescence enhancement upon binding to nucleic acids, was used as a model drug for ultrasound-induced cellular uptake. SYTOX Green uptake was monitored in high spatiotemporal resolution to qualitatively assess the relation between uptake and fluorescence intensity in individual cells. In addition, the kinetics of fluorescence enhancement were studied as a function of experimental parameters, in particular, laser duty cycle (DC), SYTOX Green concentration and cell line.

RESULTS: Ultrasound-induced intracellular SYTOX Green uptake resulted in local fluorescence enhancement, spreading throughout the cell and ultimately accumulating in the nucleus during the 9-min acquisition. The temporal evolution of SYTOX Green fluorescence was substantially influenced by laser duty cycle: continuous laser (100 % DC) induced a 6.4-fold higher photobleaching compared to pulsed laser (3.3 % DC), thus overestimating the fluorescence kinetics. A positive correlation of fluorescence kinetics and SYTOX Green concentration was found, increasing from 0.6 × 10(-3) to 2.2 × 10(-3) s(-1) for 1 and 20 μM, respectively. Finally, C6 cells displayed a 2.4-fold higher fluorescence rate constant than FaDu cells.

CONCLUSIONS: These data show that the temporal behavior of intracellular SYTOX Green fluorescence enhancement depends substantially on nuclear accumulation and not just on cellular uptake. In addition, it is strongly influenced by the experimental conditions, such as the laser duty cycle, SYTOX Green concentration, and cell line.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-693
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Imaging and Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Confocal microscopy
  • Drug delivery
  • Fluorescence
  • Microbubbles
  • Model drug
  • Ultrasound


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