American Chemical Society
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More Is Better: Dual-Acceptor Engineering for Constructing Second Near-Infrared Aggregation-Induced Emission Luminogens to Boost Multimodal Phototheranostics

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-10-09, 16:36 authored by Shiping Yang, Jianyu Zhang, Zhijun Zhang, Rongyuan Zhang, Xinwen Ou, Weilin Xu, Miaomiao Kang, Xue Li, Dingyuan Yan, Ryan T. K. Kwok, Jianwei Sun, Jacky W. Y. Lam, Dong Wang, Ben Zhong Tang
The manipulation of electron donor/acceptor (D/A) shows an endless impetus for innovating optical materials. Currently, there is booming development in electron donor design, while research on electron acceptor engineering has received limited attention. Inspired by the philosophical idea of “more is different”, two systems with D′–D–A–D–D′ (1A system) and D′–D–A–A–D–D′ (2A system) structures based on acceptor engineering were designed and studied. It was demonstrated that the 1A system presented a weak aggregation-induced emission (AIE) to aggregation-caused quenching (ACQ) phenomenon, along with the increased acceptor electrophilicity and planarity. In sharp contrast, the 2A system with one more acceptor exhibited an opposite ACQ-to-AIE transformation. Interestingly, the fluorophore with a more electron-deficient A–A moiety in the 2A system displayed superior AIE activity. More importantly, all compounds in the 2A system showed significantly higher molar absorptivity (ε) in comparison to their counterparts in the 1A system. Thanks to the highest ε, near-infrared-II (NIR-II, 1000–1700 nm) emission, desirable AIE property, favorable reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, and high photothermal conversion efficiency, a representative member of the 2A system handily performed in fluorescence-photoacoustic-photothermal multimodal imaging-guided photodynamic-photothermal collaborative therapy for efficient tumor elimination. Meanwhile, the NIR-II fluorescence imaging of blood vessels and lymph nodes in living mice was also accomplished. This study provides the first evidence that the dual-connected acceptor tactic could be a new molecular design direction for the AIE effect, resulting in high ε, aggregation-intensified NIR-II fluorescence emission, and improved ROS and heat generation capacities of phototheranostic agents.