In this paper, we report synthesis and characterization of a novel multimodality (MRI/fluorescence) probe for pH sensing and imaging. A multifunctional polymer was derived from poly(N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide) (PHPMA) and integrated with a naphthalimide-based-ratiometric fluorescence probe and a gadolinium-1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane-1,4,7,10-tetraacetic acid complex (Gd-DOTA complex). The polymer was characterized using UV-vis absorption spectrophotometry, fluorescence spectrofluorophotometry, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and confocal microscopy for optical and MRI-based pH sensing and cellular imaging. In vitro labeling of macrophage J774 and esophageal CP-A cell lines shows the polymer's ability to be internalized in the cells. The transverse relaxation time (T2) of the polymer was observed to be pH-dependent, whereas the spin-lattice relaxation time (T1) was not. The pH probe in the polymer shows a strong fluorescence-based ratiometric pH response with emission window changes, exhibiting blue emission under acidic conditions and green emission under basic conditions, respectively. This study provides new materials with multimodalities for pH sensing and imaging.
Keywords: MRI; dual-modality; fluorescence imaging; pH sensor; polymer; ratiometric sensor.