An unconventional nano-AIEgen originating from a natural plant polyphenol for multicolor bioimaging

Lei Lu, Mengyao Yang, Youngseo Kim, Tingting Zhang, Nahyun Kwon, Haidong Li, Sungnam Park, Juyoung Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Biocompatible aggregation-induced emission (AIE) materials from natural resources are of great interest for a variety of potential applications. Here, we report the unconventional AIE nature of the green tea polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is investigated by observing the disappearance and reoccurrence of fluorescence when EGCG is dissolved and recrystallized in aqueous solutions. The intermolecular through-space conjugation and structural rigidification induced by multiple intermolecular H-bonds play critical roles in the AIE phenomenon. This inspires the development of a multicolored, monodisperse, photostable, and non-toxic nano-AIE luminogen (nano-AIEgen), which is simply prepared by polyphenol-amine-based crosslinking in aqueous solutions, demonstrating great potential for living cell bioimaging. Our strategy to develop nano-AIEgens using AIE-active hydrophilic natural products—e.g., plant polyphenols, such as tannic acid, that exhibit similar AIE characteristics—can help push the boundary of the exploration of various novel, large-scale, biocompatible, water-soluble, and degradable AIE materials from natural resources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100745
JournalCell Reports Physical Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 16 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 31800795 ), Sichuan Science and Technology Program (no. 2021JDRC0160 ), and the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Korean government (nos. 2012R1A3A2048814 and 2021R1A6A1A10039823 to J.Y. and 2019R1A6A1A11044070 to S.P.). M.Y. thanks the China Scholarship Council (CSC) (no. 201904910820 ). L.L. thanks Prof. Yawen Wang and Dr. Hua Qiu for their support and helpful discussion. Lei Lu, Mengyao Yang, and Youngseo Kim contributed equally to this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • AIE
  • EGCG
  • aggregation-induced emission
  • bioimaging
  • nano-AIEgen
  • natural products
  • polyphenols


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