Within a living cell, the intracellular distribution is spatially nonuniform and dynamically changing over time in response to environmental cues. By focusing on electromagnetic fields down to dimensions smaller than the diffraction limit, nanoplasmonic optical antennas, functioning as nanoplasmonic gene switches, enable on- demand and spatially precise regulation of genetic activity to give rise to location-specific function. In addition to on-demand gene regulation, nanoplasmonic optical antennas also function as label-free biosensors that significantly enhance spectral information for plasmon resonance energy transfer, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, and nanoplasmonic molecular rulers. "Spectral snapshots" (i.e., spectroscopic imaging) of the dynamically changing intracellular biochemical distribution can be obtained over time.
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