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Chem Biol. 1999 Jul;6(7):411-8.

A novel acidotropic pH indicator and its potential application in labeling acidic organelles of live cells.

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Molecular Probes Incorporated, 4849 Pitchford Avenue, Eugene, Oregon 97402, USA.



Ratio imaging has received intensive attention in the past few decades. The growing potential of ratio imaging is significantly limited, however, by the lack of appropriate fluorescent probes, for acidic organelles in particular. The classic fluorescent dyes (such as fluoresceins, rhodamines and coumarins) are not suitable for studying acidic organelles (such as lysosomes) because their fluorescence is significantly decreased under neutral or acidic conditions. This has motivated us to develop probes that can be used in ratio imaging that are strongly fluorescent even in acidic media.


The compound 2-(4-pyridyl)-5-((4-(2-dimethylaminoethyl-aminocarbamoyl) methoxy)phenyl)oxazole (PDMPO) was prepared and characterized as a new acidotropic dual-excitation and dual-emission pH indicator. It emits intense yellow fluorescence at lower pH and gives intense blue fluorescence at higher pH. This unique pH-dependent fluorescence property was readily explored to selectively stain lysosomes and to determine the pH of the organelle in an emission-ratio-imaging mode. PDMPO is selectively localized to lysosomes and exhibits a pH-dependent dual excitation and emission.


PDMPO selectively labels acidic organelles (such as lysosomes) of live cells and the two distinct emission peaks can be used to monitor the pH fluctuations of live cells in ratio measurements. Additionally, the very large Stokes shift and excellent photostability of PDMPO make the compound an ideal fluorescent acidotropic probe. The unique fluorescence properties of PDMPO might give researchers a new tool with which to study acidic organelles of live cells.

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