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DNA Switches on the Two-Photon Efficiency of an Ultrabright Triphenylamine Fluorescent Probe Specific of AT Regions

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journal contribution
posted on 28.08.2013, 00:00 by Blaise Dumat, Guillaume Bordeau, Elodie Faurel-Paul, Florence Mahuteau-Betzer, Nicolas Saettel, Germain Metge, Céline Fiorini-Debuisschert, Fabrice Charra, Marie-Paule Teulade-Fichou
We report on the design and synthesis of two-photon fluorescent triphenylamines bearing two or three vinyl branches terminated by a N-methyl benzimidazolium moiety. The new compounds (TP-2Bzim, TP-3Bzim) are light-up fluorescent DNA probes with a long wavelength emission (>580 nm). Compared to their pyridinium models, the TP-Bzim dyes exhibit a remarkable improvement of both their DNA affinity and fluorescence quantum yield, especially for the two-branch derivative (TP-2Bzim: ΦF = 0.54, Ka = 107 M–1), resulting in a large fluorescence emission turn-on ratio of up to 140. Concomitantly, the two-photon absorption cross-section of TP-2Bzim is dramatically enhanced upon DNA binding (δ = 1080 vs 110 GM for the free form). This effect of the DNA matrix on the nonlinear absorption is uncovered for the first time. This is attributed to a tight fit of the molecule inside the minor groove of AT-rich DNA which induces geometrical rearrangements in the dye ground state as supported by circular dichroism and molecular modeling data. Consequently, TP-2bzim displays an exceptional two-photon molecular brightness (δ×ΦF = 583 GM), a value unrivalled for a small biofluorophore. These properties enable to image nuclear DNA in fixed cells at submicromolar concentration ([TP-2Bzim] = 100 nM) and to visualize ultrabright foci of centromeric AT-rich chromatin. Finally TP-2Bzim exhibits a high photostability, is live-cell permeant, and does not require RNase treatment. This outstanding combination of optical and biological properties makes TP-2Bzim a bioprobe surpassing the best DNA stainers and paves the way for studying further nonlinear optical processes in DNA.