Engineering a FRET strategy to achieve a ratiometric two-photon fluorescence response with a large emission shift and its application to fluorescence imaging†
Two-photon excitation (TPE) probe-based fluorescence imaging has become one of the most attractive diagnostic techniques to investigate biomolecules and biological events in live cells and tissues. At the current stage most of the TPE-based sensing is reflected by fluorescence intensity changes. Nevertheless the mere altering of intensity could be facilely affected by ambient conditions. On the other hand, TPE probes based on an intramolecular charge transfer (ICT) strategy could solve this problem to some extent with a morphology change-induced emission shift. However their applications are yet constrained due to the inherent limitation of ICT, e.g. the high degree of overlap of two emissions bands and shifts of the TPE maxima. To achieve the desired TPE-based sensing and to circumvent the problems stated above, we adapted a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) strategy to develop small molecule ratiometric TPE fluorescent probes. Our FRET-based ratiometric TPE fluorescent probe displays a remarkable emission shift (up to 125 nm) with two well-resolved emission bands. Hence the ratio of these two emission bands could enable the measurement of fluorescence changes more accurately, thus further improving imaging in live cells and deep tissues. To the best of our knowledge, the current reported probe has the largest emission shift among all the small molecule ratiometric TPE fluorescent probes while the maximum TPE wavelength remains unchanged. This work has provided a FRET approach to fabricate novel small molecule ratiometric TPE fluorescent probes that improve imaging in deep tissues.