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Zhang, Lei; Isselstein, Michael; Köhler, Jens; Eleftheriadis, Nikolaos; Huisjes, Nadia M.; Guirao-Ortiz, Miguel; Narducci, Alessandra; Smit, Jochem H.; Stoffels, Janko; Harz, Hartmann; Leonhardt, Heinrich; Herrmann, Andreas and Cordes, Thorben (2022): Linker Molecules Convert Commercial Fluorophores into Tailored Functional Probes during Biolabelling. In: Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Vol. 61, No. 19 [PDF, 7MB]


Many life-science techniques and assays rely on selective labeling of biological target structures with commercial fluorophores that have specific yet invariant properties. Consequently, a fluorophore (or dye) is only useful for a limited range of applications, e.g., as a label for cellular compartments, super-resolution imaging, DNA sequencing or for a specific biomedical assay. Modifications of fluorophores with the goal to alter their bioconjugation chemistry, photophysical or functional properties typically require complex synthesis schemes. We here introduce a general strategy that allows to customize these properties during biolabelling with the goal to introduce the fluorophore in the last step of biolabelling. For this, we present the design and synthesis of 'linker' compounds, that bridge biotarget, fluorophore and a functional moiety via well-established labeling protocols. Linker molecules were synthesized via the Ugi four-component reaction (Ugi-4CR) which facilitates a modular design of linkers with diverse functional properties and bioconjugation- and fluorophore attachment moieties. To demonstrate the possibilities of different linkers experimentally, we characterized the ability of commercial fluorophores from the classes of cyanines, rhodamines, carbopyronines and silicon-rhodamines to become functional labels on different biological targets in vitro and in vivo via thiol-maleimide chemistry. With our strategy, we showed that the same commercial dye can become a photostable self-healing dye or a sensor for bivalent ions subject to the linker used. Finally, we quantified the photophysical performance of different self-healing linker-fluorophore conjugates and demonstrated their applications in super-resolution imaging and single-molecule spectroscopy.

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