Subcellular detection of PEBCA particles in macrophages: combining darkfield microscopy, confocal Raman microscopy, and ToF–SIMS analysis
Abstract The detection of biomedical organic nanocarriers in cells and tissues is still an experimental challenge. Here we developed an imaging strategy for the label-free detection of poly (ethylbutyl cyanoacrylate) (PEBCA) particles. Experiments were carried out with phagocytic NR8383 macrophages exposed to non-toxic and non-activating concentrations of fluorescent (PEBCA NR668 and PEBCA NR668/IR), non-fluorescent (PEBCA), and cabazitaxel-loaded PEBCA particles (PEBCA CBZ). Exposure to PEBCA NR668 revealed an inhomogeneous particle uptake similar to what was obtained with the free modified Nile Red dye (NR668). In order to successfully identify the PEBCA-loaded cells under label-free conditions, we developed an imaging strategy based on enhanced darkfield microscopy (DFM), followed by confocal Raman microscopy (CRM) and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF–SIMS). Nitrile groups of the PEBCA matrix and PEBCA ions were used as suitable analytes for CRM and ToF–SIMS, respectively. Masses found with ToF–SIMS were further confirmed by Orbitrap-SIMS. The combined approach allowed to image small (< 1 µm) PEBCA-containing phagolysosomes, which were identified as PEBCA-containing compartments in NR8383 cells by electron microscopy. The combination of DFM, CRM, and ToF–SIMS is a promising strategy for the label-free detection of PEBCA particles.