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J Org Chem. 2008 Sep 5;73(17):6587-94. doi: 10.1021/jo800852h. Epub 2008 Jul 30.

Amino(oligo)thiophene-based environmentally sensitive biomembrane chromophores.

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Richard D. Berlin Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06030, USA.


There is a growing need for cellular imaging with fluorescent probes that emit at longer wavelengths to minimize the effects of absorption, autofluorescence, and scattering from biological tissue. In this paper a series of new environmentally sensitive hemicyanine dyes featuring amino(oligo)thiophene donors have been synthesized via aldol condensation between a 4-methylpyridinium salt and various amino(oligo)thiophene carboxaldehydes, which were, in turn, obtained from amination of bromo(oligo)thiophene carboxaldehyde. Side chains on these fluorophores impart a strong affinity for biological membranes. Compared with benzene analogues, these thiophene fluorophores show significant red shift in the absorption and emission spectra, offering compact red and near-infrared emitting fluorophores. More importantly, both the fluorescence quantum yields and the emission peaks are very sensitive to various environmental factors such as solvent polarity or viscosity, membrane potential, and membrane composition. These chromophores also exhibit strong nonlinear optical properties, including two-photon fluorescence and second harmonic generation, which are themselves environmentally sensitive. The combination of long wavelength fluorescence and nonlinear optical properties make these chromophores very suitable for applications that require sensing or imaging deep inside tissues.

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