Analytical Chemistry

Rationally Designing Simple Rod-Like Amphiphilic NIR-Emissive AIE Probes for Precise In-Vivo Detection of Aβ Fibrils/Plaques at A Super-Early Stage

Ju Mei East China University of Science and Technology


With increase of social aging, Alzheimer's disease (AD) has been one of the serious diseases threatening human health. The occurrence of Aβ fibrils or plaques is recognized as the hallmark of AD. Currently, optical imaging has stood out to be a promising technique for the imaging of Aβ fibrils/plaques and the diagnosis of AD. However, restricted by their poor blood-brain barrier (BBB) penetrability, short-wavelength excitation and emission, and aggregation-caused quenching (ACQ) effect, the clinically used gold-standard optical probes such as thioflavin T (ThT) and thioflavin S (ThS), are not effective enough in the early diagnosis of AD in vivo. Herein, we put forward an “all-in-one” design principle and demonstrate its feasibility in developing high-performance fluorescent probes which are specific to Aβ fibrils/plaques and promising for super-early in-vivo diagnosis of AD. As a proof of concept, a simple rod-like amphiphilic NIR fluorescent AIEgen, i.e., AIE-CNPy-AD, is developed by taking the specificity, BBB penetration ability, deep-tissue penetration capacity, high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) into consideration. AIE-CNPy-AD is constituted by connecting the electron-donating and accepting moieties through single bonds and tagging with a propanesulfonate tail, giving rise to the NIR fluorescence, aggregation-induced emission (AIE) effect, amphiphilicity, and rod-like structure, which in turn result in high binding-affinity and excellent specificity to Aβ fibrils/plaques, satisfactory ability to penetrate BBB and deep tissues, ultrahigh SNR and sensitivity, and high-fidelity imaging capability. In-vitro, ex-vivo, and in-vivo identifying of Aβ fibrils/plaques in different strains of mice indicate that AIE-CNPy-AD holds the universality to the detection of Aβ fibrils/plaques. It is noteworthy that AIE-CNPy-AD is even able to trace the small and sparsely distributed Aβ fibrils/plaques in very young AD model mice such as 4-month-old APP/PS1 mice which are reported to be the youngest mice to have Aβ deposits in brains, suggesting its great potential in diagnosis and intervention of AD at a super-early stage.


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Supplementary material

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Abeta detection-Supporting Information-20210201