Active Probes for Imaging Membrane Dynamics of Live Cells with High Spatial and Temporal Resolution over Extended Time Scales and Areas

J Am Chem Soc. 2018 Mar 14;140(10):3505-3509. doi: 10.1021/jacs.7b13307. Epub 2018 Mar 1.


Despite the advancement of molecular imaging techniques, there is an unmet need for probes for direct imaging of membrane dynamics of live cells. Here we report a novel type of active (or enzyme responsive) probes to directly image membrane dynamics of live cells with high spatial and temporal resolution over extended time scales and areas. Because lipid rafts enrich cholesterols and GPI-anchored enzymes (e.g., ectophosphatases), we design probes that consist of an enzymatic trigger, a fluorophore, and a cholesterol that are affinitive to the cell membrane. Being water-soluble and as the substrate of ectophosphatase, these cell compatible probes preferentially and rapidly assemble in plasma membrane, exhibit strong fluorescence, work at micromolar concentrations, and easily achieve high resolution monitoring of nanoscale heterogeneity in membranes of live cells, the release of exosomes, and the membrane dynamics of live cells. This work provides a facile means to link membrane dynamics and heterogeneity to cellular processes for understanding the interactions between membranes and proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cell Survival
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Imaging*
  • Molecular Structure


  • Fluorescent Dyes