Cationic quaternized chitosan bioconjugates with aggregation-induced emission features for cell imaging.


MOE Key Laboratory of Macromolecular Synthesis and Functionalization, Department of Polymer Science and Engineering, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310027, China. Electronic address: [Email]


Fluorescent bioprobs are in urgent demand to monitor important biological events in biomedicine. However, the aggregation-caused quenching character, high toxicity, water-insolubility and easy leakage property of conventional small molecular dyes hinder the development in this area. In this work, an aggregation-induced emission (AIE) bioconjugate was synthesised by labeling tetraphenylethylene (TPE) to quaternized chitosan (QCS). The TPE-QCS bioconjugate emits strong fluorescence even in solid state, and is cationic and water-soluble over a wide range of pH values. The TPE-QCS aqueous solution stained HeLa cells by dose- and time-depent manner and imaged living cells with bright fluorescence. Futhermore, the cationic bioconjugate was readily internalized by cells through endocytosis, and further aggragated to large sizes and adhered to negatively charged organelle membranes inside cells achieving fluorescent cell imaging with fluorescence enhancement and leakage-free staining. The AIE-active TPE-QCS with cationic nature, good water-solubility over a wide pH range and unique cell imaging properties could trace HeLa cells for as long as 23 passages, that was obviously superior to existing commercial cellular tracer, so has promising application prospects as ultra long-term tracer in biomedical field.


Aggregation-induced emission,Long-term cellular tracing,Quaternized chitosan,Water-soluble,

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