Organelle-targeting fluorescence probes are valuable because they can provide spatiotemporal information about the trafficking of analytes of interest. The spatiotemporal resolution can be improved by using low-energy emission signals because they are barely contaminated by autofluorescence noises. In this study, we designed and synthesized a deep-red-fluorescent zinc probe (JJ) with a membrane-targeting cholesterol unit. This zinc probe consists of a boron-azadipyrromethene (aza-BODIPY) fluorophore and a zinc receptor that is tethered to a tri(ethylene glycol)-cholesterol chain. In aqueous solutions buffered to pH 7.4, JJ exhibits weak fluorescence with a peak wavelength of 663 nm upon excitation at 622 nm. The addition of ZnCl2 elicits an approximately 5-fold enhancement of the fluorescence emission with a fluorescence dynamic range of 141000. Our electrochemical and picosecond transient photoluminescence investigations indicate that the fluorescence turn-on response is due to the zinc-induced abrogation of the formation of a nonemissive intramolecularly charge-separated species, which occurs with a driving force of 0.98 eV. The fluorescence zinc response was found to be fully reversible and to be unaffected by pH changes or the presence of biological metal ions. These properties are due to tight zinc binding with a dissociation constant of 4 pM. JJ was found to be nontoxic to HeLa cells up to submicromolar concentrations, which enables cellular imaging. Colocalization experiments were performed with organelle-specific stains and revealed that JJ is rapidly internalized into intracellular organelles, including lysosomes and endoplasmic reticula. Unexpectedly, probe internalization was found to permeabilize the cell membrane, which facilitates the influx of exogens such as zinc ions. Such permeabilization does not arise for a control probe without the tri(ethylene glycol)-cholesterol chain (JJC). Our results show that the membrane-targeting cholesterol unit can disrupt membrane integrity.
|Number of pages||15|
|State||Published - 17 Aug 2020|