A method of gold nanoparticle (Au NP) labeling with backscattered electron (BE) imaging of field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) was applied for specific detection of target biomolecules on a cell surface. A single-stranded DNA aptamer, which specifically binds to the target molecule on a human acute lymphoblastic leukemia cell, was conjugated with a 20 nm Au NP and used as a probe to label its target molecule on the cell. The Au NP probe was incubated with the cell, and the interaction was confirmed using BE imaging of FE-SEM through direct counting of the number of Au NPs attached on the target cell surface. Specific Au NP-aptamer probes were observed on a single cell surface and their spatial distributions including submicron-order localizations were also clearly visualized, whereas the nonspecific aptamer probes were not observed on it. The aptamer probe can be potentially dislodged from the cell surface with treatment of nucleases, indicating that Au NPconjugated aptamer probes can be used as sensitive and reversible probes to label target biomolecules on cells.
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