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J Am Chem Soc. 2013 Apr 3;135(13):4926-9. doi: 10.1021/ja400337p. Epub 2013 Mar 26.

Full-range intracellular pH sensing by an aggregation-induced emission-active two-channel ratiometric fluorogen.

Author information

  • 1Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Chemistry, Institute for Advanced Study, and Institute of Molecular Functional Materials, The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST), Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China.

Erratum in

  • J Am Chem Soc. 2014 Aug 6;136(31):11196.


Intracellular pH (pHi) is an important parameter associated with cellular behaviors and pathological conditions. Sensing pHi and monitoring its changes in live cells are essential but challenging due to the lack of effective probes. We herein report a pH-sensitive fluorogen for pHi sensing and tracking. The dye is a tetraphenylethene-cyanine adduct (TPE-Cy). It is biocompatible and cell-permeable. Upon diffusing into cells, it responds sensitively to pHi in the entire physiological range, visualizing the acidic and basic compartments with intense red and blue emissions, respectively. The ratiometric signal of the red and blue channels can thus serve as an indicator for local proton concentration. The utility of TPE-Cy in pHi imaging and monitoring is demonstrated with the use of confocal microscopy, ratiometric analysis, and flow cytometry.

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