Diversity oriented fluorescence library approach (DOFLA) for live cell imaging probe development

Seong Wook Yun, Nam Young Kang, Sung Jin Park, Hyung Ho Ha, Yun Kyung Kim, Jun Seok Lee, Young Tae Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


A cell is the smallest functional unit of life. All forms of life rely on cellular processes to maintain normal functions, and changes in cell function induced by metabolic disturbances, physicochemical damage, infection, or abnormal gene expression may cause disease. To understand basic biology and to develop therapeutics for diseases, researchers need to study live cells. Along with advances in fluorescence microscopy and in vitro cell culture, live-cell imaging has become an essential tool in modern biology for the study of molecular and cellular events. Although researchers have often used fluorescent proteins to visualize cell-type-specific markers, this method requires genetic manipulations, which may not be appropriate in nontransgenic cells. Immunodetection of cellular markers requires the use of xenogenic antibodies, which may not detect intracellular markers in live cells. One option for overcoming these problems is the use of fluorescent small molecules targeted to specific cell types, which can enter live cells and interact with molecules of interest.We have used combinatorial chemistry to develop a large number of fluorescent small molecules as new imaging probes even without prior information about the probes' binding targets and mechanism, a strategy that we call the diversity oriented fluorescence library approach (DOFLA). We have used DOFLA to produce novel sensors and probes that detect a variety of biological and chemical molecules in vivo as well as in vitro.In this Account, we describe a series of fluorescent small molecules developed using DOFLA that bind specifically to particular cell types. These molecules provide new ways to detect and isolate these cells. The fluorescent probes CDy1, CDg4, and CDb8 tag embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells but not fibroblasts or germ-line cells. CDr3 binds to an intracellular neural stem cell marker, fatty acid binding protein 7, which allows researchers to separate neural stem cells from embryonic stems cells and more differentiated cells such as neurons and glia. In addition, we have developed CDr10, which distinguishes microglia from neurons and glia. CDy2 stains myocytes much more brightly than myoblasts because of the increase in mitochondrial membrane potential during myogenesis. GY and PiY selectively stain α and β cells of pancreatic islets, respectively. Histamine Blue binds directly to histamine and stains basophils and macrophages containing high quantities of histamine. Glutathione Green allows researchers to measure the level of glutathione in cells and tissues by binding to glutathione and then triggering a hypsochromic shift. We have also developed a set of compounds that bind to cancer cells based on the cell type of origin and biocompatible surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) nanotags for cancer detection. In addition to discussing these new probes and their cell-type specificity, we also describe their applications in new assays, cell characterization, and pathology studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1277-1286
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Apr 15
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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