Polyfluorophores on a DNA backbone: A multicolor set of labels excited at one wavelength

Yin Nah Teo, James N. Wilson, Eric T. Kool

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


We recently described the assembly of fluorescent deoxyriboside monomers ("fluorosides") into DNA-like phosphodiester oligomers (oligodeoxyfluorosides or ODFs) in which hydrocarbon and heterocyclic aromatic fluorophores interact both physically and electronically. Here we report the identification of a multicolor set of water-soluble ODF dyes that display emission colors across the visible spectrum, and all of which can be simultaneously excited by long-wavelength UV light at 340-380 nm. Multispectral dye candidates were chosen from a library of 4096 tetramer ODFs constructed on PEG-polystyrene beads using a simple long-pass filter to observe all visible colors at the same time. We resynthesized and characterized a set of 23 ODFs containing one to four individual chromophores and included 2-3 spacer monomers to increase aqueous solubility and minimize aggregation. Emission maxima of this set range from 376 to 633 nm, yielding apparent colors from violet to red, all of which can be visualized directly. The spectra of virtually all ODFs in this set varied considerably from the simple combination of monomer components, revealing extensive electronic interactions between the presumably stacked monomers. In addition, comparisons of anagrams in the set (isomers having the same components in a different sequence) reveal the importance of nearest-neighbor interactions in the emissive behavior. Preliminary experiments with human tumor (HeLa) cells, observing two ODFs by laser confocal microscopy, showed that they can penetrate the outer cellular membrane, yielding cytoplasmic localization. In addition, a set of four distinctly colored ODFs was incubated with live zebrafish embryos, showing tissue penetration, apparent biostability, and no apparent toxicity. The results suggest that ODF dyes may be broadly useful as labels in biological systems, allowing the simultaneous tracking of multiple species by color, and allowing visualization in moving systems where classical fluorophores fail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3923-3933
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 25 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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