Red fluorescent pyrazoline-BODIPY nanoparticles for ultrafast and long-term bioimaging†
Fluorescence bioimaging is very significant in studying biological processes. Fluorescent nanoparticles (NPs) manufactured from aggregation-induced emission (AIE) materials, as promising candidates, have attracted more attention. However, it is still a challenge to explore suitable AIE NPs for bioimaging. Herein, we synthesized pyrazoline-BODIPY (PZL-BDP) with a donor and acceptor (D–A) structure by a condensation reaction, cultured its single crystal, and studied its twisted intramolecular charge transfer (TICT) and AIE effects. PZL-BDP could self-assemble to form red fluorescent nanoparticles (PZL-BDP NPs) which showed a good fluorescence quantum yield of 15.8% in water. PZL-BDP NPs with excellent stability and biocompatibility exhibited a large Stokes shift (Δλ = 111 nm) which resulted in the reduction of external interference and enhancement of the fluorescence contrast. Furthermore, these nanoparticles could be readily internalized by HeLa cells and they stain the cells in just five seconds, indicating an ultrafast bioimaging protocol. Moreover, long-term tracking fluorescence signals in vivo for about 12 days were obtained. The bright red fluorescence, ultrafast cell staining ability, and long-term in vivo tracking competence outline the great potential of rational design nanomaterials with AIE characteristics for monitoring biological processes.