Protein Detection and Quantitation by Tetraphenylethene-Based Fluorescent Probes with Aggregation-Induced Emission Characteristics

Three functionalized derivatives of tetraphenylethylene (TPE), namely, 1,2-bis(4-methoxyphenyl)-1,2-diphenylethene (1), 1,2-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)-1,2-diphenylethene (2), and 1,2-bis[4-(3-sulfonatopropoxyl)phenyl]-1,2-diphenylethene sodium salt (3), were synthesized and their fluorescence properties were investigated. All the TPE molecules are nonluminescent in the solution state but are induced to emit efficiently by aggregate formation. This novel process of aggregation-induced emission (AIE) is rationalized to be caused by the restriction of intramolecular rotations of the dye molecules in the aggregate state. The possibility of utilizing the AIE effect for protein detection and quantification is explored using bovine serum albumin (BSA) as a model protein, with salt 3 being found to perform as a stable, sensitive, and selective bioprobe.