skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Thursday, May 23 until 2:00 AM ET on Friday, May 24 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Devising Efficient Red‐Shifting Strategies for Bioimaging: A Generalizable Donor‐Acceptor Fluorophore Prototype

Long emission wavelengths, high fluorescence quantum yields (FQYs), and large Stokes shifts are highly desirable features for fluorescent probes in biological imaging. However, the current development of many fluorescent probes remains largely trial‐and‐error and lacks efficiency. Moreover, to achieve far‐red/near‐infrared emission, a significant extension in the‐conjugation is usually adopted but accompanied by other drawbacks such as fluorescence loss. In this review, we discuss an effective red‐shifting strategy built upon the green fluorescent protein chromophore, which enables a synergistic tuning of both the electronic ground and excited states. This approach could shorten the path toward redder emission in comparison to the conventional intramolecular charge transfer (ICT) strategy. We envision that this spectroscopy and computation‐aided strategy may advance the noncanonical fluorescent protein design and be generalized to various fluorophore scaffolds for redder emission while preserving other superior properties such as high FQYs.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Chemistry – An Asian Journal
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1514-1523
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Amyloid protein aggregation is associated with many neurodegenerative diseases, including amyloid‐β (Aβ)in Alzheimer disease, human islet amyloid polypeptide (hIAPP) in type II diabetes, and human calcitonin (hCT) in medullary thyroid carcinoma. Significant efforts have been made to develop different diagnostic and prevention strategies for the early detection and intervention of these disease‐causative protein aggregates. However, conventional design wisdoms are mostly limited to the molecules with either single function (amyloid imaging or amyloid prevention) or single targeting protein (Aβ, hIAPP, or hCT). Here, a rational design strategy of an amyloid‐aggregation‐induced emission (AIE)‐active molecule is demonstrated by conjugating an amyloid fragment of GNNQQNY (G7) with an AIE fluorescent molecule of triphenylvinyl benzoic acid (namely, G7‐TBA), making G7‐TBA as multiple‐target, dual‐function, amyloid probes and amyloid modulators for detecting, monitoring, and altering amyloid aggregation of three different amyloid proteins (Aβ, hIAPP, and hCT). G7‐TBA probe shows conformationally specific binding affinities to amyloid aggregates, switching from an “off” state (low fluorescence) for amyloid monomers to an “on” state (high fluorescence) for β‐structure‐rich amyloid oligomers and fibrils in aqueous solution. Further surface immobilization of TBA probes on surface plasmon resonance surfaces allows to amplify detection sensitivity and binding affinity to amyloid aggregates formed at different aggregation stages. G7‐TBA as amyloid modulator enables acceleration of amyloid fibrillization and selectively protects cells from hIAPP‐induced toxicity. The distinct amyloid detection and modulation of G7‐TBA are essentially derived from the cross‐seeding between G7 and amyloid aggregation via β‐structure interaction, which by far exceed the binding affinity between commercial ThT and amyloid aggregates. Such design concepts of amyloid‐AIE conjugates can be further explored as multiple‐function and target probes and/or modulators for biomedical applications.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Fluorescence‐activating proteins (FAPs) that bind a chromophore and activate its fluorescence have gained popularity in bioimaging. The fluorescence‐activating and absorption‐shifting tag (FAST) is a light‐weight FAP that enables fast reversible fluorogen binding, thus advancing multiplex and super‐resolution imaging. However, the rational design of FAST‐specific fluorogens with large fluorescence enhancement (FE) remains challenging. Herein, a new fluorogen directly engineered from green fluorescent protein (GFP) chromophore by a unique double‐donor‐one‐acceptor strategy, which exhibits an over 550‐fold FE upon FAST binding and a high extinction coefficient of approximately 100,000 M−1 cm−1, is reported. Correlation analysis of the excited state nonradiative decay rates and environmental factors reveal that the large FE is caused by nonpolar protein−fluorogen interactions. Our deep insights into structure‐function relationships could guide the rational design of bright fluorogens for live‐cell imaging with extended spectral properties such as redder emissions.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Biogeochemical cycling has often been characterized by physical and microbial processes, yet animals can be essential mediators of energy and nutrients in ecosystems. Excretion by aggregated animals can be an important local source of inorganic nutrients in green food webs; however, whether animals are a source of dissolved energy that can support brown food webs is understudied.

    We tested whether animal aggregations are a substantial flux of bioavailable dissolved organic matter (DOM) by studying spatially stable, biogeochemical hotspots formed by filter‐feeding freshwater mussels. We used parallel‐factor analysis to quantify DOM fluorescent components composition of mussel excretion and expected digestive breakdown of particulate food sources would lead to excretion of labile DOM. Next, we combined measured excretion rates of DOM, ammonium (, N) and phosphorous (SRP; P) for 22 species with biomass estimates for 14 aggregations to quantify contributions of DOM, N and P to local availability. Because mussels occupy distinct stoichiometric niches, we anticipated that differences in species biomass and assemblage structure would elicit different flux and stoichiometries of aggregate excretion.

    Aggregate dissolved organic carbon (DOC) excretion was minor (1%–11%) compared to N (12%–2,860%) and P (1%–97%), yet generalities across assemblages emerged regarding organic matter transformation by mussels towards labile protein‐like compounds compared to abundant aromatic, humic compounds in ambient water.

    Aggregate excretion of labile DOM was a substantial pool of bioavailable energy, contributing 2%–114% of local labile DOM. Spatial differences in assemblage structure led to strong differences in aggregate flux and stoichiometry driven by biomass and stoichiometric trait expression of species with contrasting dominance patterns.

    Under the nutrient conditions of our study (high C:nutrient), biogeochemical hotspots associated with low‐trophic position animal biomass may indirectly control energy flow to the brown food web by shifting C:nutrient stoichiometry available to microbes or directly by increasing the flux of microbially available DOM. Collectively, our results highlight a potentially substantial flux of labile energy and nutrients to microbial communities through the transformation of ingested organic matter by aggregations of animals and emphasize that shared functional trait classification may not translate into shared ecological function.

    A freePlain Language Summarycan be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Red fluorescent proteins (RFPs) represent an increasingly popular class of genetically encodable bioprobes and biomarkers that can advance next‐generation breakthroughs across the imaging and life sciences. Since the rational design of RFPs with improved functions or enhanced versatility requires a mechanistic understanding of their working mechanisms, while fluorescence is intrinsically an ultrafast event, a suitable toolset involving steady‐state and time‐resolved spectroscopic techniques has become powerful in delineating key structural features and dynamic steps which govern irreversible photoconverting or reversible photoswitching RFPs, and large Stokes shift (LSS)RFPs. The pertinentcistransisomerization and protonation state change of RFP chromophores in their local environments, involving key residues in protein matrices, lead to rich and complicated spectral features across multiple timescales. In particular, ultrafast excited‐state proton transfer in various LSSRFPs showcases the resolving power of wavelength‐tunable femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS) in mapping a photocycle with crucial knowledge about the red‐emitting species. Moreover, recent progress in noncanonical RFPs with a site‐specifically modified chromophore provides an appealing route for efficient engineering of redder and brighter RFPs, highly desirable for bioimaging. Such an effective feedback loop involving physical chemists, protein engineers, and biomedical microscopists will enable future successes to expand fundamental knowledge and improve human health.

    more » « less
  5. The incorporation of noncanonical amino acids (ncAAs) into fluorescent proteins is promising for red-shifting their fluorescence and benefiting tissue imaging with deep penetration and low phototoxicity. However, ncAA-based red fluorescent proteins (RFPs) have been rare. The 3-aminotyrosine modified superfolder green fluorescent protein (aY-sfGFP) represents a recent advance, yet the molecular mechanism for its red-shifted fluorescence remains elusive while its dim fluorescence hinders applications. Herein, we implement femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy to obtain structural fingerprints in the electronic ground state and reveal that aY-sfGFP possesses a GFP-like instead of RFP-like chromophore. Red color of aY-sfGFP intrinsically arises from a unique “double-donor” chromophore structure that raises ground-state energy and enhances charge transfer, notably differing from the conventional conjugation mechanism. We further developed two aY-sfGFP mutants (E222H and T203H) with significantly improved (∼12-fold higher) brightness by rationally restraining the chromophore's nonradiative decay through electronic and steric effects, aided by solvatochromic and fluorogenic studies of the model chromophore in solution. This study thus provides functional mechanisms and generalizable insights into ncAA-RFPs with an efficient route for engineering redder and brighter fluorescent proteins. 
    more » « less