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Broadly Applicable Strategy for the Fluorescence Based Detection and Differentiation of Glutathione and Cysteine/Homocysteine: Demonstration in Vitro and in Vivo

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journal contribution
posted on 25.02.2016, 00:00 by Wenqiang Chen, Hongchen Luo, Xingjiang Liu, James W. Foley, Xiangzhi Song
Glutathione (GSH), cysteine (Cys), and homocysteine (Hcy) are small biomolecular thiols that are present in all cells and extracellular fluids of healthy mammals. It is well-known that each plays a separate, critically important role in human physiology and that abnormal levels of each are predictive of a variety of different disease states. Although a number of fluorescence-based methods have been developed that can detect biomolecules that contain sulfhydryl moieties, few are able to differentiate between GSH and Cys/Hcy. In this report, we demonstrate a broadly applicable approach for the design of fluorescent probes that can achieve this goal. The strategy we employ is to conjugate a fluorescence-quenching 7-nitro-2,1,3-benzoxadiazole (NBD) moiety to a selected fluorophore (Dye) through a sulfhydryl-labile ether linkage to afford nonfluorescent NBD-O-Dye. In the presence of GSH or Cys/Hcy, the ether bond is cleaved with the concomitant generation of both a nonfluorescent NBD-S-R derivative and a fluorescent dye having a characteristic intense emission band (B1). In the special case of Cys/Hcy, the NBD-S-Cys/Hcy cleavage product can undergo a further, rapid, intramolecular Smiles rearrangement to form a new, highly fluorescent NBD-N-Cys/Hcy compound (band B2); because of geometrical constraints, the GSH derived NBD-S-GSH derivative cannot undergo a Smiles rearrangement. Thus, the presence of a single B1 or double B1 + B2 signature can be used to detect and differentiate GSH from Cys/Hcy, respectively. We demonstrate the broad applicability of our approach by including in our studies members of the Flavone, Bodipy, and Coumarin dye families. Particularly, single excitation wavelength could be applied for the probe NBD-OF in the detection of GSH over Cys/Hcy in both aqueous solution and living cells.