Nucleic acid-selective light-up fluorescent biosensors for ratiometric two-photon imaging of the viscosity of live cells and tissues†
Rational design of specific ratiometric viscosity probes with small molecular weight is a challenge in practical biotechnology applications. Herein two novel water-soluble, small-molecular ratiometric probes, bearing N-methyl benzothiazolium moiety (DSF and DBF), are designed for two-photon fluorescent imaging as a functional of local viscosity. The dye DSF, a light-up fluorescent probe, is sensitive to local viscosity and selectively stains nuclear DNA, which can be used to inspect asynchronous cells under confocal microscopy. While the dye DBF as a molecular rotor displays strong fluorescence enhancement in viscous media or binding to RNA. It exhibits dual absorption and emission as well, and only the red emission is markedly sensitive to viscosity changes, providing a ratiometric response and selectively imaging nucleolic and cytosolic RNA. Interestingly it is shown, for the first time, that the intracellular targeting and localization (DNA and RNA) of the two dyes are entirely realized simply by modifying the substituent attached to the benzothiazolium.