Polyacrylamide-based, ratiometric, spherical, optical nanosensors, or polyacrylamide PEBBLEs (Probes Encapsulated By Biologically Localized Embedding), have been fabricated, aimed at real-time glucose imaging in intact biological systems, i.e. living cells. These nanosensors are prepared using a microemulsion polymerization process, and their average size is about 45 nm in diameter. The sensors incorporate glucose oxidase (GOx), an oxygen sensitive fluorescent indicator (Ru[dpp(SO3Na)2]3)Cl2, and an oxygen insensitive fluorescent dye, Oregon Green 488-dextran or Texas Red-dextran, as a reference for the purpose of ratiometric intensity measurements. The enzymatic oxidation of glucose to gluconic acid results in the local depletion of oxygen, which is measured by the oxygen sensitive ruthenium dye. The small size and inert matrix of these sensors allows them to be inserted into living cells with minimal physical and chemical perturbations to their biological functions. The PEBBLE matrix protects the enzyme and fluorescent dyes from interference by proteins in cells, enabling reliable in vivo chemical analysis. Conversely, the matrix also significantly reduces the toxicity of the indicator and reference dyes to the cells, so that a larger variety of dyes can be used in optimal fashion. Furthermore, the PEBBLE matrix enables the synergistic approach in which there is a steady state of local oxygen consumption, and this cannot be achieved by separately introducing free enzyme and dyes into a cell. The work presented here describes the production and characterization of glucose sensitive PEBBLEs, and their potential for intracellular glucose measurements. The sensor response is determined in terms of the linear range, ratiometric operation, response time, sensor stability, reversibility and immunity to interferences.
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