Cell Membrane-Specific Fluorescent Probe Featuring Dual and Aggregation-Induced Emissions

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Department of Chemistry; Department of Biological Sciences


A cell membrane-specific fluorescent probe was prepared by conjugating a coumarin dye with a tetraphenylethene (TPE) derivative through an α,β-unsaturated ketone connection. The probe has two absorptions: one from the TPE moiety at 300 nm and a second one due to the coumarin moiety at 458.5 nm. The probe fluoresces at 470 nm in tetrahydrofuran (THF) solution. The probe exhibits a useful aggregation-induced emission (AIE) property. A gradual increase in the water content of a THF solution causes a significant decrease and 12 nm red shift in the fluorescence peak at 470 nm, giving rise to a new strong fluorescence peak at 591 nm at a 95% water content. The probe is hydrophobic with an AIE property and binds to cell membranes, resulting in 591 nm fluorescence upon implantation into cells. The probe possesses a long retention time despite the lack of a long, cell membrane-anchored hydrophobic alkyl chain, which is typical for traditional membrane-specific probes. Our probe also displays low cytotoxicity and excellent photostability.

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ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces