Optimising molecular rotors to AIE fluorophores for mitochondria uptake and retention†
Molecular rotors exhibit fluorescence enhancement in a confined environment and thus have been used extensively in biological imaging. However, many molecular rotors suffer from small Stokes shift and self-aggregation caused quenching. In this work, we have synthesised a series of red emissive molecular rotors based on cationic α-cyanostilbene. Profoundly enhanced aggregation-induced emission (AIE) properties and greatly widened Stokes shifts can be achieved by molecular engineering. With specificity to stain mitochondria, we demonstrate a simple approach to achieve cell uptake and retention upon tuning the pyridinium substituent of the dyes.