Imaging Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)

Biol Bull. 2016 Aug;231(1):73-84. doi: 10.1086/689592.


Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a universal mediator of metabolism and signaling across unicellular and multicellular species. There is a fundamental interdependence between the dynamics of ATP and the physiology that occurs inside and outside the cell. Characterizing and understanding ATP dynamics provide valuable mechanistic insight into processes that range from neurotransmission to the chemotaxis of immune cells. Therefore, we require the methodology to interrogate both temporal and spatial components of ATP dynamics from the subcellular to the organismal levels in live specimens. Over the last several decades, a number of molecular probes that are specific to ATP have been developed. These probes have been combined with imaging approaches, particularly optical microscopy, to enable qualitative and quantitative detection of this critical molecule. In this review, we survey current examples of technologies available for visualizing ATP in living cells, and identify areas where new tools and approaches are needed to expand our capabilities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / chemistry
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / chemistry
  • Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer Techniques
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
  • Microscopy
  • Molecular Imaging
  • Molecular Probes / chemistry
  • Optical Imaging


  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Molecular Probes
  • Adenosine Triphosphate