S. Voci, B. Goudeau, G. Valenti, A. Lesch, M. Jović, S. Rapino, F. Paolucci, S. Arbault, N. Sojic

J. Am. Chem. Soc., 140, 2018, 14753-14760

Herein is reported a surface-confined microscopy based on electrochemiluminescence (ECL) that allows to image the plasma membrane of single cells at the interface with an electrode. By analyzing photoluminescence (PL), ECL and AFM images of mammalian CHO cells, we demonstrate that, in contrast to the wide-field fluorescence, ECL emission is confined to the immediate vicinity of the electrode surface and only the basal membrane of the cell becomes luminescent. The resulting ECL microscopy reveals details that are not resolved by classic fluorescence microscopy, without any light irradiation and specific setup. The thickness of the ECL-emitting regions is ∼500 nm due to the unique ECL mechanism that involves short-lifetime electrogenerated radicals. In addition, the reported ECL microscopy is a dynamic technique that reflects the transport properties through the cell membranes and not only the specific labeling of the membranes. Finally, disposable transparent carbon nanotube (CNT)-based electrodes inkjet-printed on classic microscope glass coverslips were used to image cells in both reflection and transmission configurations. Therefore, our approach opens new avenues for ECL as a surface-confined microscopy to develop single cell assays and to image the dynamics of biological entities in cells or in membranes.