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Journal of Nanobiotechnology


Background: Nanoparticles have emerged as key materials for developing applications in nanomedicine, nanobiotechnology, bioimaging and theranostics. Existing bioimaging technologies include bioluminescent resonance energy transfer-conjugated quantum dots (BRET-QDs). Despite the current use of BRET-QDs for bioimaging, there are strong concerns about QD nanocomposites containing cadmium which exhibits potential cellular toxicity.

Results: In this study, bioluminescent composites comprised of magnetic nanoparticles and firefly luciferase (Photinus pyralis) are examined as potential light-emitting agents for imaging, detection, and tracking mammalian spermatozoa. Characterization was carried out using infrared spectroscopy, TEM and cryo-TEM imaging, and ζ-potential measurements to demonstrate the successful preparation of these nanocomposites. Binding interactions between the synthesized nanoparticles and spermatozoon were characterized using confocal and atomic/magnetic force microscopy. Bioluminescence imaging and UV–visible-NIR microscopy results showed light emission from sperm samples incubated with the firefly luciferase-modified nanoparticles. Therefore, these newly synthesized luciferase-modified magnetic nanoparticles show promise as substitutes for QD labeling, and can potentially also be used for in vivo manipulation and tracking, as well as MRI techniques.

Conclusions: These preliminary data indicate that luciferase-magnetic nanoparticle composites can potentially be used for spermatozoa detection and imaging. Their magnetic properties add additional functionality to allow for manipulation, sorting, or tracking of cells using magnetic techniques.



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Published Version


This work has been funded by the National Science Foundation (EPS-0903787; IIA-1430364), the Office of Research and Economic Development at Mississippi State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (#58-6402-3-018).


BioMed Central





Peer Reviewed



Spermatozoa, Bioluminescence Imaging, Magnetic nanoparticles, Nanocomposites, Reproduction, Core–shell nanoparticles, Luciferase