Total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy is a powerful means of probing biological cells because it reduces autofluorescence, but the need for direct contact between the cell surface and the microscope slide hinders chemical access to the cell surface. In this work, a submicrometer crystalline layer of colloidal silica on the microscope coverslip is shown to allow TIRF microscopy while also allowing chemical access to the cell surface. A 750 nm layer of 165 nm silica colloidal crystals was sintered onto a fused silica coverslip, and Chinese hamster ovary cells were successfully grown on this surface. This cell line over-expresses the human delta-opioid receptor, which enabled probing of the binding of a labeled ligand to the receptors on the cell surface. Total internal reflection and chemical access to the cell surface are demonstrated. The range of angles for total internal reflection is reduced only by 1/3 due to the lower index of refraction of the colloidal multilayer relative to fused silica.

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