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Constructing a Local Hydrophobic Cage in Dye-Doped Fluorescent Silica Nanoparticles to Enhance the Photophysical Properties

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journal contribution
posted on 21.04.2020, 19:20 by Long Jiao, Yongzhuo Liu, Xiaoye Zhang, Gaobo Hong, Jing Zheng, Jingnan Cui, Xiaojun Peng, Fengling Song
Aggregation-caused quenching (ACQ) and poor photostability in aqueous media are two common problems for organic fluorescence dyes which cause a dramatic loss of fluorescence imaging quality and photodynamic therapy (PDT) failure. Herein, a local hydrophobic cage is built up inside near-infrared (NIR) cyanine-anchored fluorescent silica nanoparticles (FSNPs) in which a hydrophobic silane coupling agent (n-octyltriethoxysilane, OTES) is doped into FSNPs for the first time to significantly inhibit the ACQ effect and inward diffusion of water molecules. Therefore, the obtained optimal FSNP-C with OTES-modification can provide hydrophobic repulsive forces to effectively inhibit the π–π stacking interaction of cyanine dyes and simultaneously reduce the formation of strong oxidizing species (•OH and H2O2) in reaction with H2O, resulting in the best photostability (fluorescent intensity remained at 90.1% of the initial value after 300 s of laser scanning) and a high PDT efficiency on two- and three-dimensional (spheroids) HeLa cell culture models. Moreover, through molecular engineering (including increasing covalent anchoring sites and steric hindrance groups of cyanine dyes), FSNP-C exhibits the highest fluorescent intensity both in water solution (12.3-fold improvement compared to free dye) and living cells due to the limitation of molecular motion. Thus, this study provides an effectively strategy by combining a local hydrophobic cage and molecular engineering for NIR FSNPs in long-term bright fluorescence imaging and a stable PDT process.