Painting Supramolecular Polymers in Organic Solvents by Super-resolution Microscopy

Beatrice Adelizzi, Antonio Aloi, Nathan J. Van Zee, Anja R. A. Palmans, E. W. Meijer, and Ilja K. Voets

Published: 22/05/2018


Despite the rapid development of complex functional supramolecular systems, visualization of these architectures under native conditions at high resolution has remained a challenging endeavor. Super-resolution microscopy was recently proposed as an effective tool to unveil one-dimensional nanoscale structures in aqueous media upon chemical functionalization with suitable fluorescent probes. Building upon our previous work, which enabled photoactivation localization microscopy in organic solvents, herein, we present the imaging of one-dimensional supramolecular polymers in their native environment by interface point accumulation for imaging in nanoscale topography (iPAINT). The noncovalent staining, typical of iPAINT, allows the investigation of supramolecular polymers’ structure in situ without any chemical modification. The quasi-permanent adsorption of the dye to the polymer is exploited to identify block-like arrangements within supramolecular fibers, which were obtained upon mixing homopolymers that were prestained with different colors. The staining of the blocks, maintained by the lack of exchange of the dyes, permits the imaging of complex structures for multiple days. This study showcases the potential of PAINT-like strategies such as iPAINT to visualize multicomponent dynamic systems in their native environment with an easy, synthesis-free approach and high spatial resolution.

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