Albumin-chaperoned cyanine dye yields superbright NIR-II fluorophore with enhanced pharmacokinetics

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Science Advances  13 Sep 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 9, eaaw0672
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw0672


NIR-II fluorescence imaging greatly reduces scattering coefficients for nearly all tissue types at long wavelengths, benefiting deep tissue imaging. However, most of the NIR-II fluorophores suffer from low quantum yields and/or short circulation time that limit the quality of NIR-II imaging. Here, we engineered a supramolecular assembly of protein complex with lodged cyanine dyes to produce a brilliant NIR-II fluorophore, providing a NIR-II quantum yield of 21.2% with prolonged circulation time. Computational modeling revealed the mechanism for fluorescence enhancement and identified key parameters governing albumin complex for NIR-II fluorophores. Our complex afforded high-resolution microvessel imaging, with a 3-hour imaging window compared to 2 min for free dye alone. Furthermore, the complexation strategy was applied to an antibody-derived assembly, offering high-contrast tumor imaging without affecting the targeting ability of the antibody. This study provides a facile strategy for producing high-performance NIR-II fluorophores by chaperoning cyanine dyes with functional proteins.

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