Unveiling intracellular thermal gradients trough luminescence thermometry

A better understanding of the role of subcellular thermo-generating organelles in the cellular functions through new ways to screen thermal gradients in living cells

The temperature plays a central role in the myriad of biochemical reactions regulating life. For instance, the intracellular temperature depends on cellular activity, including cell division, gene expression, enzymatic reactions, and pathological states. The cells have developed thermoregulation mechanisms to neutralize large external temperature changes and to keep homeostasis of the body temperature upon cold or hot exposure, an intriguing and not yet fully understood mechanism.


A recent work published in Nano Letters developed in the framework of the FET-Open program NanoTBTech reports on the development of a unique tool for real-time bidimensional intracellular temperature mapping. The joint publication of Spanish (ICMA, Zaragoza) and Portuguese (CICECO, Aveiro) researchers describes innovative thermal probes consisting of lanthanide-bearing polymeric micelles and their application in the temperature mapping of breast metastatic adenocarcinoma cells.

An adapted fluorescence microscope was developed permitting the real-time recording of the emission of the thermal probes, that is subsequently converted to the intracellular temperature. This singular approach allowed the observations of inhomogeneous intracellular temperature progressions up to ~20 degrees and subcellular gradients of ~5 degrees between the nucleolus and the rest of the cell.


These results opens new avenues to the detailed screening of thermal gradients within living cells, thus contributing to an improved comprehension of the role of some subcellular thermo-generating organelles in the cellular functions.


Photo by Shahadat Rahman on Unsplash