A near-infrared cell tracker reagent for multiscopic in vivo imaging and quantification of leukocyte immune responses

PLoS One. 2007 Oct 24;2(10):e1075. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001075.


The complexity of the tumor microenvironment necessitates that cell behavior is studied in a broad, multi-scale context. Although tomographic and microscopy-based far and near infrared fluorescence (NIRF, >650 nm) imaging methods offer high resolution, sensitivity, and depth penetration, there has been a lack of optimized NIRF agents to label and track cells in their native environments at different scales. In this study we labeled mammalian leukocytes with VivoTag 680 (VT680), an amine reactive N-hydroxysuccinimide (NHS) ester of a (benz) indolium-derived far red fluorescent probe. We show that VT680 diffuses into leukocytes within minutes, covalently binds to cellular components, remains internalized for days in vitro and in vivo, and does not transfer fluorescence to adjacent cells. It is biocompatible, keeps cells fully functional, and fluoresces at high intensities. In a tumor model of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) immunotherapy, we track and quantify VT680-labeled cells longitudinally at the whole-body level with fluorescence-mediated molecular tomography (FMT), within tissues at single cell resolutions by multiphoton and confocal intravital microscopy, and ex vivo by flow cytometry. Thus, this approach is suitable to monitor cells at multiple resolutions in real time in their native environments by NIR-based fluorescence imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Survival
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Immune System
  • Indoles / chemistry
  • Leukocytes / immunology*
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Luminescent Proteins / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Models, Biological
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared / instrumentation
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared / methods
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Succinimides / chemistry


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Indoles
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Succinimides
  • red fluorescent protein
  • N-hydroxysuccinimide