Real-time monitoring of newly acidified organelles during autophagy in living cells is highly desirable for a better understanding of intracellular degradative processes. Herein, we describe a reaction-based boron dipyrromethene (BODIPY) dye containing strongly electron-withdrawing diethyl 2-cyanoacrylate groups at the α-positions. The probe exhibits intense red fluorescence in acidic organelles or the acidified cytosol while exhibiting negligible fluorescence in other regions of the cell. The underlying mechanism is a nucleophilic reaction at the central meso-carbon of the indacene core, resulting in the loss of π-conjugation entailed by dramatic spectroscopic changes of more than 200 nm between its colorless, non-fluorescent leuco-BODIPY form and its red and brightly emitting form. The reversible transformation between red fluorescent BODIPY and leuco-BODIPY along with negligible cytotoxicity qualifies such dyes for rapid and direct intracellular lysosome imaging and cytosolic acidosis detection simultaneously without any washing step, enabling the real-time monitoring of newly acidified organelles during autophagy.
Keywords: Autophagy; Cellular imaging; Chemical modification; Fluorescent dyes.
© The Author(s) 2019.