Aggregation-induced Emission Based Fluorogens for Mitochondria-targeted Tumor Imaging and Theranostics

Chem Asian J. 2020 Dec 1;15(23):3942-3960. doi: 10.1002/asia.202001100. Epub 2020 Oct 19.


Occurrence and development of cancer are multifactorial and multistep processes which involve complicated cellular signaling pathways. Mitochondria, as the energy producer in cells, play key roles in tumor cell growth and division. Since mitochondria of tumor cells have a more negative membrane potential than those of normal cells, several fluorescent imaging probes have been developed for mitochondria-targeted imaging and photodynamic therapy. Conventional fluorescent dyes suffer from aggregation-caused quenching effect, while novel aggregation-induced emission (AIE) probes are ideal candidates for biomedical applications due to their large stokes shift, strong photo-bleaching resistance, and high quantum yield. This review aims to introduce the recent advances in the design and application of mitochondria-targeted AIE probes. The comprehensive review focuses on the structure-property relationship of these imaging probes, expecting to inspire the development of more practical and versatile AIE fluorogens (AIEgens) as tumor imaging and therapy agents for preclinical and clinical use.

Keywords: aggregation-induced emission; fluorescent imaging; mitochondria imaging; photodynamic therapy; tumor therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Molecular Probes
  • Molecular Structure
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Optical Imaging
  • Photochemotherapy
  • Precision Medicine
  • Theranostic Nanomedicine / methods*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Molecular Probes