Visualizing Quantum Dots in Biological Samples Using Silver Staining

Leo YT Chou, Hans C Fischer, Steve D Perrault, Warren CW Chan

Anal. Chem. 2009, 81, 11, 4560–4565 | DOI: 10.1021/ac900344a


Quantum dot (QD) based contrast agents are currently being developed as probes for bioimaging and as vehicles for drug delivery. The ability to detect QDs, regardless of fluorescence brightness, in cells, tissues, and organs is imperative to their development. Traditional methods used to visualize the distribution of QDs in biological samples mainly rely on fluorescence imaging, which does not account for optically degenerate QDs as a result of oxidative quenching within the biological environment. Here, we demonstrate the use of silver staining for directly visualizing the distribution of QDs within biological samples under bright field microscopy. This strategy involves silver deposition onto the surface of QDs upon reduction by hydroquinone, effectively amplifying the size of QDs until visible for detection. The method can be used to detect non-fluorescent QDs and is fast, simple, and inexpensive.