A comparison of the emission efficiency of four common green fluorescence dyes after internalization into cancer cells

Bioconjug Chem. Nov-Dec 2006;17(6):1426-31. doi: 10.1021/bc0601626.


In vivo optical imaging to enhance the detection of cancer during endoscopy or surgery requires a targeted fluorescent probe with high emission efficiency and high signal-to-background ratio. One strategy to accurately detect cancers is to have the fluorophore internalize within the cancer cells permitting nonbound fluorophores to be washed away or absorbed. The choice of fluorophores for this task must be carefully considered. For depth of penetration, near-infrared probes are ordinarily preferred but suffer from relatively low quantum efficiency. Although green fluorescent protein has been widely used to image tumors on internal organs in mice, green fluorescent probes are better suited for imaging the superficial tissues because of the short penetration distance of green light in tissue and the highly efficient production of signal. While the fluorescence properties of green fluorophores are well-known in vitro, less attention has been paid to their fluorescence once they are internalized within cells. In this study, the emission efficiency after cellular internalization of four common green fluorophores conjugated to avidin (Av-fluorescein, Av-Oregon green, Av-BODIPY-FL, and Av-rhodamine green) were compared after each conjugate was incubated with SHIN3 ovarian cancer cells. Using the lectin binding receptor system, the avidin-fluorophore conjugates were endocytosed, and their fluorescence was evaluated with fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. While fluorescein demonstrated the highest signal outside the cell, among the four fluorophores, internalized Av-rhodamine green emitted the most light from SHIN3 ovarian cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. The internalized Av-rhodamine green complex appeared to localize to the endoplasmic vesicles. Thus, among the four common green fluorescent dyes, rhodamine green is the brightest green fluorescence probe after cellular internalization. This information could have implications for the design of tumor-targeted fluorescent probes that rely on cellular internalization for cancer detection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avidin / chemistry
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Color
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacology
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Molecular Structure
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Avidin