A dual emission fluorescent probe enables simultaneous detection of glutathione and cysteine/homocysteine†
Many studies have shown that glutathione (GSH) and cysteine (Cys)/homocysteine (Hcy) levels are interrelated in biological systems. To unravel the complicated biomedical mechanisms by which GSH and Cys/Hcy are involved in various disease states, probes that display distinct signals in response to GSH and Cys/Hcy are highly desirable. In this work, we report a rhodol thioester (1) that responds to GSH and Cys/Hcy with distinct fluorescence emissions in neutral media. Probe 1 reacts with Cys/Hcy to form the corresponding deconjugated spirolactam via a tandem native chemical ligation (NCL) reaction. This intramolecular spirocyclization leads to the “quinone–phenol” transduction of rhodol dyes, and an excited-state intramolecular proton transfer (ESIPT) process between the phenolic hydroxyl proton and the aromatic nitrogen in the benzothiazole unit occurs upon photoexcitation, thus affording 2-(2′-hydroxyphenyl) benzothiazole (HBT) emission (454 nm). In the case of the tripeptide GSH, only transthioesterification takes place removing the intramolecular photo-induced electron transfer (PET) process caused by the electron deficient 4-nitrobenzene moiety giving rise to a large fluorescence enhancement at the rhodol emission band (587 nm). The simultaneous detection of GSH and Cys/Hcy is attributed to the significantly different rates of intramolecular S,N-acyl shift of their corresponding thioester adducts derived from 1. The utility of probe 1 has been demonstrated in various biological systems including serum and cells.