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Biological Chemistry

Custom Lanthanide Probes

ACS Meeting News: Tailoring strategy permits tracking of diverse analytes

by Carmen Drahl
April 2, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 14

New adjustments to luminescent probes made with lanthanide elements make it possible for the probes to detect two analytes in parallel and might lead to regular use of lanthanide probes for imaging in lab animals. Current routes to lanthanide probes are either tedious or tough to adapt for detecting new analytes. In San Diego, K. Eszter Borbas of Stockholm University reported a customizable probe-making strategy (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja3004045). Borbas and colleagues placed a cage around their probes’ light-harvesting antennae that could be removed, switching the antennae on, only by a specific analyte. They chose a caged coumarin precursor, which other groups have used for light-harvesting applications. Borbas’ team simultaneously detected two analytes in solution by using probes with different caging groups—one with a boronic acid to pick up hydrogen peroxide and another with a silyl group to detect fluoride. Her team is exploring coumarin derivatives’ talent for two-photon absorption, which in principle could lead to probes that absorb at wavelengths that would make animal imaging more routine. “I think Borbas will take this clever, modular technology far,” said Kate S. Carroll, who develops probes to monitor redox biochemistry at Scripps Florida.

A reaction scheme depicting the activation of a luminescent.
Borbas’ caged lanthanide probes detect a variety of analytes.

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