In this work, behaviors of positively-charged AuNRs in a highly metastatic tumor cell line MDA-MB-231 are examined based on UV-vis-NIR absorption spectroscopy in combination with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and dark-field microscopic observation. It is found that characteristic surface plasmon resonance (SPR) peaks of AuNRs can be detected using spectroscopic method within living cells that have taken up AuNRs. The peak area of transverse SPR band is shown to be proportionally related to the amount of AuNRs in the cells determined with ICP-MS, which suggests a facile and real time quantification method for AuNRs in living cells. The shape of longitudinal SPR band in UV-vis-NIR spectrum reflects the aggregation state of AuNRs in the cells during the incubation period, which is proved by TEM and microscopic observations. Experimental results reveal that AuNRs are internalized by the cells rapidly; the accumulation, distribution and aggregation of AuNRs in the cells compartments are time and dose dependent. The established spectroscopic analysis method can not only monitor the behaviors of AuNRs in living cells but may also be helpful in choosing the optimum laser stimulation wavelength for anti-tumor thermotherapy.
The article is published online in PLoS ONE and is free to access.