Nile Blue-Based Nanosized pH Sensors for Simultaneous Far-Red and Near-Infrared Live Bioimaging

Peter Jeppe Madsen, Irene Canton, Nicholas J. Warren, Efrosyni Themistou, Adam Blanazs, Burcin Ustbas, Xiaohe Tian, Russell Pearson, Giuseppe Battaglia, Andrew L. Lewis, Steven P. Armes

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Diblock copolymer vesicles are tagged with pH-responsive Nile Blue-based labels and used as a new type of pH-responsive colorimetric/fluorescent biosensor for far-red and near-infrared imaging of live cells. The diblock copolymer vesicles described herein are based on poly(2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyl phosphorylcholine-block-2-(diisopropylamino)ethyl methacrylate) [PMPC-PDPA]: the biomimetic PMPC block is known to facilitate rapid cell uptake for a wide range of cell lines, while the PDPA block constitutes the pH-responsive component that enables facile vesicle self-assembly in aqueous solution. These biocompatible vesicles can be utilized to detect interstitial hypoxic/acidic regions in a tumor model via a pH-dependent colorimetric shift. In addition, they are also useful for selective intracellular staining of lysosomes and early endosomes via subtle changes in fluorescence emission. Such nanoparticles combine efficient cellular uptake with a pH-responsive Nile Blue dye label to produce a highly versatile dual capability probe. This is in marked contrast to small molecule dyes, which are usually poorly uptaken by cells, frequently exhibit cytotoxicity, and are characterized by intracellular distributions invariably dictated by their hydrophilic/hydrophobic balance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number39
Pages (from-to)14863-14870
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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