Two-photon nanoprobes based on bioorganic nanoarchitectonics with a photo-oxidation enhanced emission mechanism

Nat Commun. 2023 Aug 26;14(1):5227. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-40897-4.


Two-photon absorption (TPA) fluorescence imaging holds great promise in diagnostics and biomedicine owing to its unparalleled spatiotemporal resolution. However, the adaptability and applicability of currently available TPA probes, which act as a critical element for determining the imaging contrast effect, is severely challenged by limited photo-luminescence in vivo. This is particularly a result of uncontrollable aggregation that causes fluorescence quenching, and inevitable photo-oxidation in harsh physiological milieu, which normally leads to bleaching of the dye. Herein, we describe the remarkably enhanced TPA fluorescence imaging capacity of self-assembling near-infrared (NIR) cyanine dye-based nanoprobes (NPs), which can be explained by a photo-oxidation enhanced emission mechanism. Singlet oxygen generated during photo-oxidation enables chromophore dimerization to form TPA intermediates responsible for enhanced TPA fluorescence emission. The resulting NPs possess uniform size distribution, excellent stability, more favorable TPA cross-section and anti-bleaching ability than a popular TPA probe rhodamine B (RhB). These properties of cyanine dye-based TPA NPs promote their applications in visualizing blood circulation and tumoral accumulation in real-time, even to cellular imaging in vivo. The photo-oxidation enhanced emission mechanism observed in these near-infrared cyanine dye-based nanoaggregates opens an avenue for design and development of more advanced TPA fluorescence probes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dimerization
  • Hypochlorous Acid*
  • Luminescence
  • Optical Imaging
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Quinolines*
  • Sodium Compounds


  • Hypochlorous Acid
  • Quinolines
  • Sodium Compounds