• alkynes;
  • biotin;
  • click chemistry;
  • fluorescent probes;
  • thymoquinone


The subcellular distribution and accumulation of thymoquinone 1, a natural anticancer agent, has hitherto been unknown. We prepared 6-(dec-9-ynyl)thymoquinone 3, an alkyne-labelled derivative with anticancer activity similar to that of its parent compound 1. Alkyne 3 was seen, after a Huisgen-type click reaction with 3-azido-7-hydroxycoumarin, to accumulate in distinct compartments of the nuclei of PtK2 potoroo kidney cells, and in adjoining regions that were stained with an antibody specific for the Golgi apparatus. In contrast, a biotinlabelled thymoquinone 4 seemed to accumulate across the entire cell nucleus upon visualisation with streptavidin; but this was less easily traceable because of co-staining of other structures such as mitochondria. In conclusion, for small drug-like molecules, visualisation by alkyne–azide cycloaddition seems to be superior to conventional visualisation by the biotin–streptavidin system.