Fluorescein-Containing Superoxide Probes with a Modular Copper-Based Trigger

Chempluschem. 2020 Apr;85(4):653-658. doi: 10.1002/cplu.202000059.


Fluorescein-derived superoxide probes featuring a copper(II) complex that can be activated by superoxide to initiate ether bond cleavage and uncage a fluorescein reporter for imaging in live cells are described. Compared to other superoxide sensing moieties, this bond cleavage strategy can be modularly adapted to fluorescent reporters with different properties without compromising the superoxide reactivity and selectivity. A green-emitting probe and its lysosome-targeting analogue have been successfully developed. Both probes are sensitive with more than 30-fold fluorescence enhancement towards superoxide and are highly selective with no significant response towards other reactive oxygen species. A structure-activity relationship study of the copper-based superoxide trigger showed that the secondary coordination environment of the copper(II) center is important for the superoxide reactivity and selectivity. The probes have been applied in imaging changes in intracellular superoxide level in live HeLa and HEK293T cells upon menadione stimulation and also in a cellular inflammation model in RAW 264.7 cells.

Keywords: copper; fluorescence; oxidation; reactive oxygen species; superoxide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Coordination Complexes / chemical synthesis
  • Coordination Complexes / chemistry*
  • Copper / chemistry*
  • Fluorescein / chemistry*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Optical Imaging*
  • Superoxides / chemistry*


  • Coordination Complexes
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Superoxides
  • Copper
  • Fluorescein