A cysteine-selective fluorescent probe for the cellular detection of cysteine

Hyo Sung Jung, Ji Hye Han, Tuhin Pradhan, Sooyeon Kim, Seok Won Lee, Jonathan L. Sessler, Tae Woo Kim, Chulhun Kang, Jong Seung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Citations (Scopus)


A series of coumarin fluorophores (1-3), each bearing a double bond conjugated quinoline unit that can undergo a Michael-type reaction with thiol-containing compounds, is reported. These systems, designed to provide so-called turn-on changes in fluorescence response when exposed to thiols, act as fluorescent chemical sensors for cysteine (Cys), homocysteine (Hcy), and glutathione (GSH). In the case of 1, selectivity for Cys over Hcy and GSH is observed, both in terms of analyte-induced signal enhancement and response time. On the basis of fluorescence spectroscopic analyses, DFT calculations, and pH dependent studies this substrate selectivity is ascribed to steric interactions between the substituents on the quinolone units present in 1 and the targeted thiols, as well as to the comparatively lower pK a value of Cys relative to Hcy and GSH. In aqueous solution, probe 1 was found capable of detecting Cys with a detection limit of 10 -7 m. This system was successfully applied to the fluorescence imaging of intracellular Cys in HepG2 cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)945-953
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jan

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the CRI program ( 2011-0000420 ) from the National Research Foundation of Korea. Support from the U.S. NIH (grant GM 58907 to J.L.S.) and the Robert A. Welch Foundation (grant F-1018 to J.L.S.) are also acknowledged.


  • Cellular detection
  • Cysteine
  • DFT calculations
  • Fluorescence
  • Thiol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials


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