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Dual-Ratiometric Target-Triggered Fluorescent Probe for Simultaneous Quantitative Visualization of Tumor Microenvironment Protease Activity and pH in Vivo

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journal contribution
posted on 14.12.2017, 00:00 by Tiancong Ma, Yi Hou, Jianfeng Zeng, Chunyan Liu, Peisen Zhang, Lihong Jing, Dihua Shangguan, Mingyuan Gao
The abnormal expression of tumor-associated proteases and lowered extracellular pH are important signatures strongly associated with cancer invasion, progression, and metastasis. However, their malignant effects were mainly identified using cell and tissue studies. To noninvasively visualize the heterogeneous distribution of these abnormal indicators in vivo and further disclose their collective behaviors, a target-triggered fluorescent nanoprobe composed of a ratiometric pH-sensitive dye, a near-infrared dye (Cy5.5), and biocompatible Fe3O4 nanoparticles was constructed. The pH-sensitive dye was linked through a peptide substrate of matrix metalloprotease-9 (MMP-9) with Fe3O4 nanoparticles to establish a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) system for sensing the pH of the tumor microenvironment. Cy5.5 served as an internal reference for forming a secondary ratiometric fluorescent system together with the activated pH dye to enable the visualization of protease activities in vivo. Extensive imaging studies using a mouse model of human colon cancer revealed that the overexpression of MMP-9 and abnormal microenvironmental pH quantitatively visualized by this dual-ratiometric probe are spatially heterogeneous and synergistically guide the tumor invasion in vivo.