Staff member


Silvia Pujals Riatós

Senior Researcher
Nanoscopy for Nanomedicine
spujals@ibecbarcelona.eu
+34 934 020 517
Staff member publications

Pujals, S., Feiner-Gracia, N., Delcanale, P., Voets, I., Albertazzi, L., (2019). Super-resolution microscopy as a powerful tool to study complex synthetic materials Nature Reviews Chemistry 3, (2), 68-84

Understanding the relations between the formation, structure, dynamics and functionality of complex synthetic materials is one of the great challenges in chemistry and nanotechnology and represents the foundation for the rational design of novel materials for a variety of applications. Initially conceived to study biology below the diffraction limit, super-resolution microscopy (SRM) is emerging as a powerful tool for studying synthetic materials owing to its nanometric resolution, multicolour ability and minimal invasiveness. In this Review, we provide an overview of the pioneering studies that use SRM to visualize materials, highlighting exciting recent developments such as experiments in operando, wherein materials, such as biomaterials in a biological environment, are imaged in action. Moreover, the potential and the challenges of the different SRM methods for application in nanotechnology and (bio)materials science are discussed, aiming to guide researchers to select the best SRM approach for their specific purpose.

Keywords: Bioinspired materials, Imaging techniques


Pujals, S., Albertazzi, L., (2019). Super-resolution microscopy for nanomedicine research ACS Nano 13, (9), 9707-9712

Super-resolution microscopy, or nanoscopy, revolutionized the field of cell biology, enabling researchers to visualize cellular structures with nanometric resolution, single-molecule sensitivity, and in multiple colors. However, the impact of these techniques goes beyond biology as the fields of nanotechnology and nanomedicine can greatly benefit from them, as well. Nanoscopy can visualize nanostructures in vitro and in cells and can contribute to the characterization of their structures and nano-bio interactions. In this Perspective, we discuss the potential of super-resolution imaging for nanomedicine research, its technical challenges, and the future developments we envision for this technology.


Kolpe, A., Arista-Romero, M., Schepens, B., Pujals, S., Saelens, X., Albertazzi, L., (2019). Super-resolution microscopy reveals significant impact of M2e-specific monoclonal antibodies on influenza A virus filament formation at the host cell surface Scientific Reports 9, (1), 4450

Influenza A virions are highly pleomorphic, exhibiting either spherical or filamentous morphology. The influenza A virus strain A/Udorn/72 (H3N2) produces copious amounts of long filaments on the surface of infected cells where matrix protein 1 (M1) and 2 (M2) play a key role in virus filament formation. Previously, it was shown that an anti-M2 ectodomain (M2e) antibody could inhibit A/Udorn/72 virus filament formation. However, the study of these structures is limited by their small size and complex structure. Here, we show that M2e-specific IgG1 and IgG2a mouse monoclonal antibodies can reduce influenza A/Udorn/72 virus plaque growth and infectivity in vitro. Using Immuno-staining combined with super-resolution microscopy that allows us to study structures beyond the diffraction limit, we report that M2 is localized at the base of viral filaments that emerge from the membrane of infected cells. Filament formation was inhibited by treatment of A/Udorn/72 infected cells with M2e-specific IgG2a and IgG1 monoclonal antibodies and resulted in fragmentation of pre-existing filaments. We conclude that M2e-specific IgGs can reduce filamentous influenza A virus replication in vitro and suggest that in vitro inhibition of A/Udorn/72 virus replication by M2e-specific antibodies correlates with the inhibition of filament formation on the surface of infected cells.


Uroz, Marina, Garcia-Puig, Anna, Tekeli, Isil, Elosegui-Artola, Alberto, Abenza, Juan F., Marín-Llauradó, Ariadna, Pujals, Silvia, Conte, Vito, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Raya, Ángel, Trepat, Xavier, (2019). Traction forces at the cytokinetic ring regulate cell division and polyploidy in the migrating zebrafish epicardium Nature Materials 18, 1015-1023

Epithelial repair and regeneration are driven by collective cell migration and division. Both cellular functions involve tightly controlled mechanical events, but how physical forces regulate cell division in migrating epithelia is largely unknown. Here we show that cells dividing in the migrating zebrafish epicardium exert large cell–extracellular matrix (ECM) forces during cytokinesis. These forces point towards the division axis and are exerted through focal adhesions that connect the cytokinetic ring to the underlying ECM. When subjected to high loading rates, these cytokinetic focal adhesions prevent closure of the contractile ring, leading to multi-nucleation through cytokinetic failure. By combining a clutch model with experiments on substrates of different rigidity, ECM composition and ligand density, we show that failed cytokinesis is triggered by adhesion reinforcement downstream of increased myosin density. The mechanical interaction between the cytokinetic ring and the ECM thus provides a mechanism for the regulation of cell division and polyploidy that may have implications in regeneration and cancer.


Delcanale, Pietro, Miret-Ontiveros, Bernat, Arista-Romero, Maria, Pujals, Silvia, Albertazzi, Lorenzo, (2018). Nanoscale mapping functional sites on nanoparticles by Points Accumulation for Imaging in Nanoscale Topography (PAINT) ACS Nano 12, (8), 7629-7637

The ability of nanoparticles to selectively recognize a molecular target constitutes the key toward nanomedicine applications such as drug delivery and diagnostics. The activity of such devices is mediated by the presence of multiple copies of functional molecules on the nanostructure surface. Therefore, understanding the number and the distribution of nanoparticle functional groups is of utmost importance for the rational design of effective materials. Analytical methods are available, but to obtain quantitative information at the level of single particles and single functional sites, i.e., going beyond the ensemble, remains highly challenging. Here we introduce the use of an optical nanoscopy technique, DNA points accumulation for imaging in nanoscale topography (DNA-PAINT), to address this issue. Combining subdiffraction spatial resolution with molecular selectivity and sensitivity, DNA-PAINT provides both geometrical and functional information at the level of a single nanostructure. We show how DNA-PAINT can be used to image and quantify relevant functional proteins such as antibodies and streptavidin on nanoparticles and microparticles with nanometric accuracy in 3D and multiple colors. The generality and the applicability of our method without the need for fluorescent labeling hold great promise for the robust quantitative nanocharacterization of functional nanomaterials.


Feiner-Gracia, Natalia, Buzhor, Marina, Fuentes, Edgar, Pujals, S., Amir, Roey J., Albertazzi, Lorenzo, (2017). Micellar stability in biological media dictates internalization in living cells Journal of the American Chemical Society 139, (46), 16677-16687

The dynamic nature of polymeric assemblies makes their stability in biological media a crucial parameter for their potential use as drug delivery systems in vivo. Therefore, it is essential to study and understand the behavior of self-assembled nanocarriers under conditions that will be encountered in vivo such as extreme dilutions and interactions with blood proteins and cells. Herein, using a combination of fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy, we studied four amphiphilic PEG–dendron hybrids and their self-assembled micelles in order to determine their structure–stability relations. The high molecular precision of the dendritic block enabled us to systematically tune the hydrophobicity and stability of the assembled micelles. Using micelles that change their fluorescent properties upon disassembly, we observed that serum proteins bind to and interact with the polymeric amphiphiles in both their assembled and monomeric states. These interactions strongly affected the stability and enzymatic degradation of the micelles. Finally, using spectrally resolved confocal imaging, we determined the relations between the stability of the polymeric assemblies in biological media and their cell entry. Our results highlight the important interplay between molecular structure, micellar stability, and cell internalization pathways, pinpointing the high sensitivity of stability–activity relations to minor structural changes and the crucial role that these relations play in designing effective polymeric nanostructures for biomedical applications.


Pujals, S., Tao, K., Terradellas, A., Gazit, E., Albertazzi, L., (2017). Studying structure and dynamics of self-Assembled peptide nanostructures using fluorescence and super resolution microscopy Chemical Communications 53, (53), 7294-7297

Understanding the formation and properties of self-Assembled peptide nanostructures is the basis for the design of new architectures for various applications. Here we show the potential of fluorescence and super resolution imaging to unveil the structural and dynamic features of peptide nanofibers with high spatiotemporal resolution.