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ACS Chem Neurosci. 2016 Jan 20;7(1):21-5. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.5b00235. Epub 2015 Oct 31.

Turn-On Near-Infrared Fluorescent Sensor for Selectively Imaging Serotonin.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Missouri , Columbia, Missouri 65211, United States.


A molecular imaging tool that provides for the direct visualization of serotonin would significantly aid in the investigation of neuropsychiatric disorders that are attributed to its neuronal dysregulation. Here, the design, synthesis, and evaluation of NeuroSensor 715 (NS715) is presented. NS715 is the first molecular sensor that exhibits a turn-on near-infrared fluorescence response toward serotonin. Density functional theory calculations facilitated the design of a fluorophore based on a coumarin-3-aldehyde scaffold that derives from an electron-rich 1,2,3,4-tetrahydroquinoxaline framework, which provides appropriate energetics to prevent the hydroxyindole moiety of serotonin from quenching its fluorescence emission. Spectroscopic studies revealed that NS715 produces an 8-fold fluorescence enhancement toward serotonin with an emission maximum at 715 nm. Accompanying binding studies indicated NS715 displays a 19-fold selective affinity for serotonin and a modest affinity for catecholamines over other primary-amine neurotransmitters. The utility of NS715 toward neuroimaging applications was validated by selectively labeling and directly imaging norepinephrine within secretory vesicles using live chromaffin cells, which serve as a model system for specialized neurons that synthesize, package, and release only a single, unique type of neurotransmitter. In addition, NS715 effectively differentiated between cell populations that express distinct neurotransmitter phenotypes.


fluorescent sensor; live cell imaging; molecular imaging; near-infrared; neurotransmitter; serotonin

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