Document Type


Publication Date



Achieving the vision of identifying and quantifying cancer-related events and targets for future personalized oncology is predicated on the existence of synthetically accessible and economically viable probe molecules fully able to report the presence of these events and targets in a rapid and highly selective and sensitive fashion. Delineated here are the design and evaluation of a newly synthesized turn-on probe whose intense fluorescent reporter signature is revealed only through probe activation by a specific intracellular enzyme present in tumor cells of multiple origins. Quenching of molecular probe fluorescence is achieved through unique photoinduced electron transfer between the naphthalimide dye reporter and a covalently attached, quinone-based enzyme substrate. Fluorescence of the reporter dye is turned on by rapid removal of the quinone quencher, an event that immediately occurs only after highly selective, two-electron reduction of the sterically and conformationally restricted quinone substrate by the cancer-associated human NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase isozyme 1 (hNQO1). Successes of the approach include rapid differentiation of NQO1-expressing and -nonexpressing cancer cell lines via the unaided eye, flow cytometry, fluorescence imaging, and two-photon microscopy. The potential for use of the turn-on probe in longer-term cellular studies is indicated by its lack of influence on cell viability and its in vitro stability. © 2012 American Chemical Society.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Journal of the American Chemical Society

First Page


Last Page