A unique approach toward near-infrared fluorescent probes for bioimaging with remarkably enhanced contrast†
Near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent probes are attractive molecular tools for bioimaging because of their low autofluorescence interference, deep tissue penetration, and minimal damage to sample. However, most previously reported NIR probes exhibit small Stokes shift, typically less than 30 nm, and low fluorescence quantum yield, strictly limited contrast and spatial resolution for bioimaging. Herein, by expanding the π-conjugated system of rhodamine B, while, at the same time, keeping its rigid and planar structure, we reported an efficient NIR dye, HN7, with large stokes shift of 73 nm and fluorescence quantum yield as high as 0.72 in ethanol, values superior to those of such traditional cyanine NIR dyes as Cy5. Using HN7, living cells, tissues and mice were imaged, and the results showed significantly enhanced contrast, improved spatial resolution, and satisfactory tissue imaging depth when compared to Cy5. Moreover, the nonfluorescent spirocyclic structure of rhodamine B is an inherent component of HN7; therefore, our strategy provided a universal platform for the design of efficient NIR turn-on bioimaging probes for various targets. As a proof-of-concept, two different NIR probes, HN7-N2 and HN7-S for NO and Hg2+, respectively, were designed, synthesized, and successfully applied for the imaging of NO and Hg2+ in living cells, tissues and mice, respectively, demonstrating the potential bioimaging applications of the new probes. In sum, this new type of dye may present new avenues for the development of efficient NIR fluorescent probes for contrast-enhanced imaging in biological applications.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Top 50 Articles of 2016: Analytical, Biological and Medicinal Chemistry