A cationic organoiridium(iii) complex-based AIEgen for selective light-up detection of rRNA and nucleolar staining†
A green emissive cationic organoiridium(III) complex, 2[PF6], with a benzimidazole-substituted 1,2,3-triazole-pyridine (BiPT) ligand has been synthesized for target-specific cellular imaging and selective detection of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) over other competitive biomolecules in aqueous buffer solution at physiological pH. Complex 2 shows aggregation-induced emission enhancement (AIEE) properties and forms nano-aggregates in the presence of poor solvents. DFT and TD-DFT-based quantum mechanical calculations were performed to substantiate some photophysical features and to establish the intermolecular π–π interactions which detain the vibrational as well as rotational motions to form the aggregates, resulting in enhanced photoluminescence (PL). To corroborate the formation of nano-aggregates and to understand the morphology of the aggregated particles, dynamic light scattering (DLS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and atomic force microscopy (AFM) measurements were performed. 2[PF6] showed low cytotoxicity and good biocompatibility and was successfully employed in organelle-specific intracellular imaging. The in vivo and in vitro photoluminescence investigations affirmed that the probe stains cell nucleoli and selectively binds rRNA. It is assumed that the supramolecular π–π interactions between the benzimidazole of the BiPT ligand and the secondary structures of rRNA may facilitate aggregation and enable PL enhancement.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Spotlight Collection: Aggregation induced luminescence of metal complexes