Near-infrared pH-activatable fluorescent probes for imaging primary and metastatic breast tumors

Hyeran Lee, Walter Akers, Kumar Bhushan, Sharon Bloch, Gail Sudlow, Rui Tang, Samuel Achilefu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


Highly tumor selective near-infrared (NIR) pH-activatable probe was developed by conjugating pH-sensitive cyanine dye to a cyclic arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (cRGD) peptide targeting α vβ3 integrin (ABIR), a protein that is highly overexpressed in endothelial cells during tumor angiogenesis. The NIR pH-sensitive dye used to construct the probe exhibits high spectral sensitivity with pH changes. It has negligible fluorescence above pH 6 but becomes highly fluorescent below pH 5, with a pKa of 4.7. This probe is ideal for imaging acidic cell organelles such as tumor lysosomes or late endosomes. Cell microscopy data demonstrate that binding of the cRGD probe to ABIR facilitated the endocytosis-mediated lysosomal accumulation and subsequent fluorescence enhancement of the NIR pH-activatable dye in tumor cells (MDA-MB-435 and 4T1/luc). A similar fluorescence enhancement mechanism was observed in vivo, where the tumors were evident within 4 h post injection. Moreover, lung metastases were also visualized in an orthotopic tumor mouse model using this probe, which was further confirmed by histologic analysis. These results demonstrate the potential of using the new integrin-targeted pH-sensitive probe for the detection of primary and metastatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)777-784
Number of pages8
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 20 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry


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