Int J Mol Sci 2017 Feb 11;18(2). Epub 2017 Feb 11.
Ultrasound and Optical Imaging Laboratory, Department of Bioengineering, The University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX 76019, USA.
Highly environment-sensitive fluorophores have been desired for many biomedical applications. Because of the noninvasive operation, high sensitivity, and high specificity to the microenvironment change, they can be used as excellent probes for fluorescence sensing/imaging, cell tracking/imaging, molecular imaging for cancer, and so on (i.e., polarity, viscosity, temperature, or pH measurement). In this work, investigations of the switching mechanism of a recently reported near-infrared environment-sensitive fluorophore, ADP(CA)₂, were conducted. Besides, multiple potential biomedical applications of this switchable fluorescent probe have been demonstrated, including wash-free live-cell fluorescence imaging, in vivo tissue fluorescence imaging, temperature sensing, and ultrasound-switchable fluorescence (USF) imaging. The fluorescence of the ADP(CA)₂ is extremely sensitive to the microenvironment, especially polarity and viscosity. Our investigations showed that the fluorescence of ADP(CA)₂ can be switched on by low polarity, high viscosity, or the presence of protein and surfactants. In wash-free live-cell imaging, the fluorescence of ADP(CA)₂ inside cells was found much brighter than the dye-containing medium and was retained for at least two days. In all of the fluorescence imaging applications conducted in this study, high target-to-noise (>5-fold) was achieved. In addition, a high temperature sensitivity (73-fold per Celsius degree) of ADP(CA)₂-based temperature probes was found in temperature sensing.