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A cell-surface-anchored ratiometric fluorescent probe for extracellular pH sensing.

ABSTRACT

Accurate sensing of the extracellular pH is a very important yet challenging task in biological and clinical applications. This paper describes the development of an amphiphilic lipid-DNA molecule as a simple yet useful cell-surface-anchored ratiometric fluorescent probe for extracellular pH sensing. The lipid-DNA probe, which consists of a hydrophobic diacyllipid tail and a hydrophilic DNA strand, is modified with two fluorescent dyes; one is pH-sensitive as pH indicator and the other is pH-insensitive as an internal reference. The lipid-DNA probe showed sensitive and reversible response to pH change in the range of 6.0-8.0, which is suitable for most extracellular studies. In addition, based on simple hydrophobic interactions with the cell membrane, the lipid-DNA probe can be easily anchored on the cell surface with negligible cytotoxicity, excellent stability, and unique ratiometric readout, thus ensuring its accurate sensing of extracellular pH. Finally, this lipid-DNA-based ratiometric pH indicator was successfully used for extracellular pH sensing of cells in 3D culture environment, demonstrating the potential applications of the sensor in biological and medical studies.