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Keywords:

  • conjugated polymers;
  • dopamine;
  • pH sensing;
  • autophagy imaging

Abstract

A dopamine-modified conjugated polymer PFPDA is synthesized and characterized. At low pH, dopamine exists in its hydroquinone form and lacks the ability to quench fluorescence. At high pH, the proportion of the quinone form of dopamine increases due to its autooxidation, and efficient intramolecular electron transfer from the polymer main chain to quinone occurs, resulting in the quenching of the fluorescence of PFPDA. Thus, PFPDA exhibits a fluorescence “turn-on” response at low pH. PFPDA possesses excellent photostability and exhibits no cytotoxicity, which makes it a good fluorescent material for pH sensing and cell imaging. A light-induced hydroxyl anion emitter, MGCB, is also used to change the pH of the solution and thus regulate the fluorescence of PFPDA via remote control under light irradiation. Because the cytoplasm becomes acidic when cell autophagy occurs, PFPDA can also be used for autophagy imaging of HeLa cells with good selectivity.