Selective Coordination of Cu2+ and Subsequent Anion Detection Based on a Naphthalimide-Triazine-(DPA)2 Chemosensor

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A new fluorescent chemosensor for copper (II) and subsequent anion sensing was designed and fully characterized. The sensor consisted of a 1,8-naphthalimide core, bearing two terminal dipicolylamine (DPA) receptor units for binding metal cations, and an ethoxyethanol moiety for enhanced water solubility. The DPA units are connected to position 4 of the fluorophore via a triazine-ethylenediamine spacer. Fluorescence titration studies of the chemosensor revealed a high selectivity for Cu2+ over other divalent ions, the emissions were strongly quenched upon binding, and a stability constant of 5.52 log units was obtained. Given the distance from DPA chelating units and the fluorophore, quenching from the Cu2+ complexation suggests an electron transfer or an electronic energy transfer mechanism. Furthermore, the Cu2+-sensor complex proved to be capable of sensing anionic phosphate derivatives through the displacement of the Cu2+ cation, which translated into a full recovery of the luminescence from the naphthalimide. Super-resolution fluorescence microscopy studies performed in HeLa cells showed there was a high intracellular uptake of the chemosensor. Incubation in Cu2+ spiked media revealed a strong fluorescent signal from mitochondria and cell membranes, which is consistent with a high concentration of ATP at these intracellular sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2020


  • copper (II)
  • fluorescent chemosensor
  • naphthalimide
  • phosphate derivatives
  • super-resolution fluorescence microscopy


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