Exogenous probes with far-red or near-infrared (NIR) two-photon absorption and fluorescence emission are highly desirable for deep tissue imaging while limiting autofluorescence. However, molecular probes exhibiting such properties are often hydrophobic. As an attractive alternative, we synthesized water-soluble polymer probes carrying multiple far-red fluorophores and demonstrated here their potential for live cell and zebrafish embryo imaging. First, at concentrations up to 10 μm, these polymer probes were not cytotoxic. They could efficiently label living HeLa cells, T lymphocytes and neurons at an optimal concentration of 0.5 μm. Moreover, they exhibited a high resistance to photobleaching in usual microscopy conditions. In addition, these polymer probes could be successfully used for in toto labeling and in vivo two-photon microscopy imaging of developing zebrafish embryos, with remarkable properties in terms of biocompatibility, internalization, diffusion, stability and wavelength emission range. The near-infrared two-photon absorption peak at 910 nm is particularly interesting since it does not excite the zebrafish endogenous fluorescence and is likely to enable long-term time-lapse imaging with limited photodamage.
Keywords: Fluorescence confocal microscopy; Multifunctional copolymer; Near-infrared; Polymer nanocarrier; Two-photon absorption; Zebrafish imaging.
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