Nanoporous silica nanoparticles functionalized with a fluorescent turn-on spirorhodamineamide as pH indicators†
We prepared water soluble, biocompatible fluorescent turn-on pH nanosensors and characterized their behavior as a function of changes in pH. The response relies on a halochromic reaction of a spirorhodamineamide derived from the bright and highly chemically and photo-stable rhodamine 6G, encapsulated in core/nanoporous shell silica nanoparticles. The fluorescent sensors displayed a fast response in the pH range of intracellular compartments. The encapsulation conferred solubility in aqueous environments and biocompatibility. We assessed the two main properties of the sensor, namely the useful pH range and the kinetics of the response, and compared them to those of the free probe. We found that such properties are strongly dependent on the functionalization and position in the silica matrix relative to the core/shell structure. Finally, we demonstrated the cellular uptake of the nanosensors, and their localization in lysosomes of living cells, by fluorescence confocal microscopy.