Cells are the fundamental units of living organisms, and are a complex collection of molecular interactions. The molecular basis of cellular biology underlies many modern-day diagnostics and therapeutics. Furthermore, the range and complexity of biomolecules in cellular biology span a range of sizes and functions: Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species as small, diffusive, and short-lived signaling molecules, to large and structurally complex proteins and protein complexes.

Our team develops optical sensors for molecules of interest in molecular cellular biology: signaling molecules, hormones, metabolites, vitamins, peptides, and proteins. We can incorporate these sensors into surfaces of microfluidic devices to monitor efflux of the biomolecule, as we demonstrate above in monitoring protein secretion from a dividing vs. non-dividing E. coli cell. Alternatively, we our sensors can be internalized by cells to image molecular targets. We show an example of intracellular detection in the bottom panel, with a riboflavin sensor that brightens as riboflavin is internalized by a macrophage cell.

Scientists: Linda Chio, Nicole Sugiono, Travis Del Bonis O’Donnell