Monitoring fluctuations in enzyme overexpression facilitates early tumor detection and excision. An AIEgen probe (DQM-ALP) for the imaging of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity was synthesized. The probe consists of a quinoline-malononitrile (QM) core decorated with hydrophilic phosphate groups as ALP-recognition units. The rapid liberation of DQM-OH aggregates in the presence of ALP resulted in aggregation-induced fluorescence. The up-regulation of ALP expression in tumor cells was imaged using DQM-ALP. The probe permeated into 3D cervical and liver tumor spheroids for imaging spatially heterogeneous ALP activity with high spatial resolution on a two-photon microscopy platform, providing the fluorescence-guided recognition of sub-millimeter tumorigenesis. DQM-ALP enabled differentiation between tumor and normal tissue ex vivo and in vivo, suggesting that the probe may serve as a powerful tool to assist surgeons during tumor resection.
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- aggregation-induced emission
- enzyme activity
- tumor detection