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Bioconjug Chem. 2011 Jul 20;22(7):1438-50. doi: 10.1021/bc2002506. Epub 2011 Jul 1.

Folate receptor-targeted aggregation-enhanced near-IR emitting silica nanoprobe for one-photon in vivo and two-photon ex vivo fluorescence bioimaging.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida 32816, United States.


A two-photon absorbing (2PA) and aggregation-enhanced near-infrared (NIR) emitting pyran derivative, encapsulated in and stabilized by silica nanoparticles (SiNPs), is reported as a nanoprobe for two-photon fluorescence microscopy (2PFM) bioimaging that overcomes the fluorescence quenching associated with high chromophore loading. The new SiNP probe exhibited aggregate-enhanced emission producing nearly twice as strong a signal as the unaggregated dye, a 3-fold increase in two-photon absorption relative to the DFP in solution, and approximately 4-fold increase in photostability. The surface of the nanoparticles was functionalized with a folic acid (FA) derivative for folate-mediated delivery of the nanoprobe for 2PFM bioimaging. Surface modification of SiNPs with the FA derivative was supported by zeta potential variation and (1)H NMR spectral characterization of the SiNPs as a function of surface modification. In vitro studies using HeLa cells expressing a folate receptor (FR) indicated specific cellular uptake of the functionalized nanoparticles. The nanoprobe was demonstrated for FR-targeted one-photon in vivo imaging of HeLa tumor xenograft in mice upon intravenous injection of the probe. The FR-targeting nanoprobe not only exhibited highly selective tumor targeting but also readily extravasated from tumor vessels, penetrated into the tumor parenchyma, and was internalized by the tumor cells. Two-photon fluorescence microscopy bioimaging provided three-dimensional (3D) cellular-level resolution imaging up to 350 μm deep in the HeLa tumor.

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