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Anal Biochem. 1991 Feb 15;193(1):49-54.

SNARF-1 as an intracellular pH indicator in laser microspectrofluorometry: a critical assessment.

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Laboratoire de Physique et Chimie Biomoléculaire, CNRS UA 198, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France.


The use of SNARF-1-AM (seminaphtorhodafluor-1-acetoxymethylester) to measure the internal pH of a single living cell by laser microspectrofluorometry has been analyzed with a lymphocyte murine B cell line A20. After incubation of the cells at 37 degrees C in the presence of 10 microM SNARF-1-AM, the internal concentration of SNARF-1 was approximately 200 microM. The enhancement of fluorescent intensity of the probe is concomitant with its leakage out of the cells. During the measurement period, this induces a continuous increase of the contribution of the external probe to the total fluorescence intensity. This prevented classical spectrofluorometry measurements, but did not preclude microspectrofluorometry measurements of internal pH. The ratio R was calculated from fluorescence intensities at 635 and 590 nm and used as an indicator of the intracellular pH. Calibration curves of the intracellular pH were obtained in the presence of nigericin and valinomycin. It appeared that both the fluorescence intensity and the ratio R were lower inside the cell than those values obtained in aqueous solutions. Possible interactions with the main biological macromolecules (i.e., DNA, proteins, membranes) were investigated as well as a possible compartmentation of the probe in cellular organelles. The modifications of probe characteristics inside the cells were attributed to the binding of the probe to cellular proteins. The intracellular pH of A20 cells, measured by SNARF-1 on 84 cells, was found to be 7.18 +/- 0.10 (with an external pH of 7.40 +/- 0.05), which corresponded with values obtained by conventional fluorometric methods.

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