Whole-Cell Photoacoustic Sensor Based on Pigment Relocalization

Antonella Lauri, Dominik Soliman, Murad Omar, Anja Stelzl, Vasilis Ntziachristos, Gil G. Westmeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Photoacoustic (optoacoustic) imaging can extract molecular information with deeper tissue penetration than possible by fluorescence microscopy techniques. However, there is currently still a lack of robust genetically controlled contrast agents and molecular sensors that can dynamically detect biological analytes of interest with photoacoustics. In a biomimetic approach, we took inspiration from cuttlefish who can change their color by relocalizing pigment-filled organelles in so-called chromatophore cells under neurohumoral control. Analogously, we tested the use of melanophore cells from Xenopus laevis, containing compartments (melanosomes) filled with strongly absorbing melanin, as whole-cell sensors for optoacoustic imaging. Our results show that pigment relocalization in these cells, which is dependent on binding of a ligand of interest to a specific G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), can be monitored in vitro and in vivo using photoacoustic mesoscopy. In addition to changes in the photoacoustic signal amplitudes, we could furthermore detect the melanosome aggregation process by a change in the frequency content of the photoacoustic signals. Using bioinspired engineering, we thus introduce a photoacoustic pigment relocalization sensor (PaPiReS) for molecular photoacoustic imaging of GPCR-mediated signaling molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-612
Number of pages10
JournalACS Sensors
Issue number3
StatePublished - 22 Mar 2019


  • G protein-coupled receptor signaling
  • GPCR signaling
  • melanophores
  • molecular imaging
  • optoacoustics
  • photoacoustic frequency spectrum
  • photoacoustics
  • whole-cell sensor


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