Silicon Quantum Dot Nanoparticles with Antifouling Coatings for Immunostaining on Live Cancer Cells

Chang Ching Tu, Kuang Po Chen, Tsu An Yang, Min Yuan Chou, Lih Y. Lin, Yaw-Kuen Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Fluorescent silicon quantum dots (SiQDs) have shown a great potential as antiphotobleaching, nontoxic and biodegradable labels for various in vitro and in vivo applications. However, fabricating SiQDs with high water-solubility and high photoluminescence quantum yield (PLQY) remains a challenge. Furthermore, for targeted imaging, their surface chemistry has to be capable of conjugating to antibodies, as well as sufficiently antifouling. Herein, antibody-conjugated SiQD nanoparticles (SiQD-NPs) with antifouling coatings composed of bovine serum albumin (BSA) and polyethylene glycol (PEG) are demonstrated for immunostaining on live cancer cells. The monodisperse SiQD-NPs of diameter about 130 nm are synthesized by a novel top-down method, including electrochemical etching, photochemical hydrosilylation, high energy ball milling, and "selective-etching" in HNO3 and HF. Subsequently, the BSA and PEG are covalently grafted on to the SiQD-NP surface through presynthesized chemical linkers, resulting in a stable, hydrophilic, and antifouling organic capping layer with isothiocyanates as the terminal functional groups for facile conjugation to the antibodies. The in vitro cell viability assay reveals that the BSA-coated SiQD-NPs had exceptional biocompatibility, with minimal cytotoxicity at concentration up to 1600 μg mL-1. Under 365 nm excitation, the SiQD-NP colloid emits bright reddish photoluminescence with PLQY = 45-55% in organic solvent and 5-10% in aqueous buffer. Finally, through confocal fluorescent imaging and flow cytometry analysis, the anti-HER2 conjugated SiQD-NPs show obvious specific binding to the HER2-overexpressing SKOV3 cells and negligible nonspecific binding to the HER2-nonexpressing CHO cells. Under similar experimental conditions, the immunofluorescence results obtained with the SiQD-NPs are comparable to those using conventional fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13714-13723
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number22
StatePublished - 8 Jun 2016


  • antifouling coatings
  • bioconjugation
  • biological labels
  • immunofluorescence
  • photoluminescence
  • silicon quantum dots

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