A cell membrane-anchored fluorescent probe for monitoring carbon monoxide release from living cells†
Carbon monoxide (CO) acts as an important gasotransmitter in delivering intramolecular and intermolecular signals to regulate a variety of physiological processes. This lipid-soluble gas can freely pass through the cell membrane and then diffuse to adjacent cells acting as a messenger. Although many fluorescent probes have been reported to detect intracellular CO, it is still a challenge to visualize the release behavior of endogenous CO. The main obstacle is the lack of a probe that can anchor onto the cell membrane while having the ability to image CO in real time. In this work, by grafting a polar head onto a long and linear hydrophobic Nile Red molecule, a cell membrane-anchored fluorophore ANR was developed. This design strategy of a cell membrane-anchored probe is simpler than the traditional one of using a long hydrophobic alkyl chain as a membrane-anchoring group, and endows the probe with better water solubility. ANR could rapidly bind to the cell membrane (within 1 min) and displayed a long retention time. ANR was then converted to a CO-responsive fluorescent probe (ANRP) by complexation with palladium based on a metal palladium-catalyzed reaction. ANRP exhibited a fast response to CO with a 25-fold fluorescence enhancement in vitro. The detection limit was calculated to be 0.23 μM, indicating that ANRP is sensitive enough to image endogenous CO. Notably, ANRP showed excellent cell membrane-anchoring ability. With ANRP, the release of CO from HepG2 cells under LPS- and heme-stimulated conditions was visualized and the cell self-protection effect during a drug-induced hepatotoxicity process was also studied. Moreover, ANRP was successfully applied to the detection of intracellular CO in several cell lines and tissues, and the results demonstrated that the liver is the main organ for CO production, and that cancer cells release more CO from their cells than normal cells. ANRP is the first membrane-anchored CO fluorescent probe that has the ability to reveal the relationship between CO release and diseases. It also has prospects for the studying of intercellular signaling functions of CO.