Local pH mapping in the cell adhesion nano-interfaces on a pH-responsive fluorescence-dye-immobilized substrate

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Cell-substrate adhesion nano-interfaces can, in principle, exhibit a spatial distribution of local pH values under the influence of the weakly acidic microenvironment of glycocalyx grafted on lipid bilayer cell membrane which is compressed and closely attached to culture substrate in the vicinity of integrin-adhesion complexes. However, a simple local pH distribution imaging methodology has not been developed. In this study, to visualize the local pH distribution at the cell adhesion interface, we prepared glass substrates chemically modified with a pH-responsive fluorescent dye fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC), observed the distribution of FITC fluorescence intensity at the adhesion interface of fibroblast (NIH/3T3) and cancer cells (HeLa), and compared the FITC images with the observed distribution of focal adhesions. FITC images were converted to pH mapping based on the pH-fluorescence calibration data of surface-immobilized FITC pre-measured in different pH media, which showed significantly larger regions with lowered pH level (6.8–7.0) from outside the cell (pH 7.4) were observed at the thick inner periphery of HeLa cells while 3T3 cells exhibited smaller lowered pH regions at the thin periphery. The lowered pH regions overlapped with many focal adhesions, and image analysis showed that larger focal adhesions tend to possess more lowered pH sites inside, reflecting enhanced glycocalyx compression due to accumulated integrin-adhesion ligand binding. This tendency was stronger for HeLa than for 3T3 cells. The role of glycocalyx compression and the pH reduction at the cell adhesive interface is discussed. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-355
Number of pages9
Journalanalytical sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry


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