AIE-based nanoaggregate tracker: high-fidelity visualization of lysosomal movement and drug-escaping processes†
High-fidelity imaging and long-term visualization of lysosomes are crucial for their functional evaluation, related disease detection and active drug screening. However, commercial aggregation-caused quenching probes are not conducive to precise lysosomal imaging because of their inherent drawbacks, like easy diffusion, short emission and small Stokes shift, let alone their long-term tracing due to rapid photobleaching. Herein we report a novel aggregation-induced emission (AIE)-based TCM-PI nanoaggregate tracker for direct visualization of lysosomes based on the building block of tricyano-methylene-pyridine (TCM), wherein introduced piperazine (PI) groups behave as targeting units to lysosomes upon protonation, and the self-assembled nanostructure contributes to fast endocytosis for enhanced targeting ability as well as extended retention time for long-term imaging. The piperazine-stabilized TCM-PI nanoaggregate shifts the emission maximum to 677 nm in an aqueous environment, and falls within the desirable NIR region with a large Stokes shift of 162 nm, thereby greatly reducing biological fluorescent background interference. In contrast with the commercially available LysoTracker Red, the essential AIE characteristic of high photostability can guarantee three-dimensional high-fidelity tracing with low photobleaching, and little diffusion from lysosomes, and especially overcome the AIE bottleneck to target specificity. Consequently, the AIE-based nanoaggregate tracker successfully achieves the high-fidelity and long-term tracing of lysosomal movement and even monitors the drug-escaping process from lysosomes to cell nuclei, which provides a potential tool to benefit drug screening.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Celebrating 10 years of Chemical Science