Monitoring mitochondrial pH with a hemicyanine-based ratiometric fluorescent probe†
Mitochondria as essential organelles play critical roles in cellular metabolism. Mitochondrial pH is a vital parameter that directly affects the unique function of mitochondria. Herein, we present a new ratiometric fluorescent probe M-pH for monitoring the pH within the mitochondria. M-pH consists of a stable and large π-electron conjugated merocyanine system. The lipophilic cationic benzyl group will facilitate the accumulation of M-pH in mitochondria. The phenol unit is the recognition moiety, achieving the ratiometric sensing of pH changes. The experimental results indicate that M-pH displays ratiometric fluorescence response to different pH values. Meanwhile, M-pH shows negligible response to common species, and has high stability and low cytotoxicity. In biological experiments, M-pH can solely accumulate in mitochondria and visualize the pH changes during mitophagy and cell apoptosis. We thus believe that M-pH has great potential as a practical tool for real-time monitoring of pH changes of mitochondria, contributing to revealing the pathogenesis of mitochondrial pH associated diseases.