Two-photon, nonlinear bioimaging, fluorescence microscopy, photostability, synthesis, biophotonics


Recent, cooperative advances in chemistry, biology, computing, photophysics, optics, and microelectronics have resulted in extraordinary developments in the biological sciences, resulting in the emergence of a novel area termed 'biophotonics'. The integrative and interdisciplinary nature of biophotonics cuts across virtually all disciplines, extending the frontiers of basic cellular, molecular, and biology research through the clinical and pharmaceutical industries. This holds true for the development and application of the novel imaging modality utilizing multiphoton absorption and its extraordinary contribution to recent advances in bioimaging. Intimately involved in the revolution of nonlinear bioimaging has been the development of optical probes for probing biological function and activity. The focus of this dissertation is in the area of probe development, particularly conjugated organic probes, optimized for efficient two-photon absorption followed by upconverted fluorescence for nonlinear, multiphoton bioimaging applications. Specifically, [pi]-conjugated fluorene molecules, with enhanced two-photon absorbing (2PA) properties and high photostability, were prepared and characterized. Contemporary synthetic methods were utilized to prepare target fluorene derivatives expected to be highly fluorescent for fluorescence imaging, and, in particular, exhibit high two-photon absorptivity suitable for two-photon excitation (2PE) fluorescence microscopy. The flexibility afforded through synthetic manipulation to integrate hydrophilic moieties into the fluorophore architecture to enhance compatibility with aqueous systems, more native to biological samples, was attempted. Incorporation of functional groups for direct covalent attachment onto target biomolecules was also pursued to prepare fluorene derivatives as efficient 2PA reactive probes. Linear and two-photon spectroscopic characterizations on these novel compounds reveal they exhibit high 2PA cross-sections on the order of ~100 GM units, nearly an order of magnitude greater than typical, commonly used fluorophores utilized in nonlinear, multiphoton microscopy imaging of biological samples. Photostability studies of representative fluorene derivatives investigated and quantified indicate these derivatives are photostable under one- and two-photon excitation conditions, with photodecomposition quantum yields on the order of 10[super-5]. Preliminary cytotoxicity studies indicate these fluorene derivatives exhibit minimal cytotoxic effects on proliferating cells. Finally, their ultimate utility as high-performance, 2PA fluorescent probes in 2PE fluorescence microscopy imaging of biological samples was demonstrated in both fixed and live cells. Due to the low cytotoxicity, high photostability, efficient 2PA, and high fluorescence quantum yield, the probes were found suitable for relatively long-term, two-photon fluorescence imaging of live cells, representing a significant advance in biophotonics.


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Graduation Date





Belfield, Kevin


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Arts and Sciences



Degree Program

Biomolecular Sciences








Release Date

May 2005

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Chemistry Commons