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Autophagy. 2013 Jun 1;9(6):894-904. doi: 10.4161/auto.24241. Epub 2013 Apr 10.

A sensitive and quantitative autolysosome probe for detecting autophagic activity in live and prestained fixed cells.

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  • 1Beijing National Laboratory for Molecular Sciences, State Key Laboratory of Rare Earth Materials Chemistry and Applications, College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering, Peking University, Beijing, China.


Autophagy is a complex, multi-step and biologically important pathway mediated by autophagosomes and autolysosomes. Accurately dissecting and detecting different stages of autophagy is important to elucidate its molecular mechanism and thereby facilitate the discovery of pharmaceutical molecules. We herein reported a small-molecule synthetic probe, Zn-G 4, which is only fluorescent upon starvation- or chemical agent-induced autophagy within the autolysosome or possible the late endosome/lysosome networks. The probe can be detected by one-photon microscopy, which gives a high signal-to-noise ratio readout of autophagic activity. The pH gradient-independent fluorescence can be detected both in live and prestained fixed cells. Moreover, the fluorescent recording can be used to quantify autophagic activity at a single point without transfection or false positive signals due to protein aggregation. Furthermore, autophagy-induced fluorescence in autolysosomes can also be detected by two-photon microscopy, suggesting potential applications in deep tissue and in vivo. In conclusion, we have developed a sensitive and specific autolysosomal probe that can be used for monitoring autophagy during later stages along with quantitative assays together with widely used early markers or microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3)-based probes.


ZnSalen; autolysosome; autophagy; optical imaging; probe

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