Live-Cell Imaging at the Nanoscale with Bioconjugatable and Photoactivatable Fluorophores

Yang Zhang*, Françisco M. Raymo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Optical diffraction fundamentally limits the spatial resolution of conventional fluorescence images to length scales that are, at least, 2 orders of magnitude longer than the dimensions of individual molecules. As a result, the development of innovative probes and imaging schemes to overcome diffraction is very much needed to enable the investigation of the fundamental factors regulating cellular functions at the molecular level. In this context, the chemical synthesis of molecular constructs with photoactivatable fluorescence and the ability to label subcellular components of live cells can have transformative implications. Indeed, the fluorescence of the resulting assemblies can be activated with spatiotemporal control, even in the intracellular environment, to permit the sequential localization of individual emissive labels with precision at the nanometer level and the gradual reconstruction of images with subdiffraction resolution. The implementation of these operating principles for subdiffraction imaging, however, is only possible if demanding photochemical and photophysical requirements to enable photoactivation and localization as well as stringent structural requisites to allow the covalent labeling of intracellular targets in live cells are satisfied. Because of these complications, only a few synthetic photoactivatable fluorophores with appropriate performance for live-cell imaging at the nanoscale have been developed so far. Significant synthetic efforts in conjunction with spectroscopic analyses are still very much needed to advance this promising research area further and turn photoactivatable fluorophores into the imaging probes of choice for the investigation of live cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1052-1062
Number of pages11
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 15 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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