The journal of physical chemistry. B

Auramine-O as a fluorescence marker for the detection of amyloid fibrils.

PMID 23088764


There is an indispensable need for a fluorescence marker for the detection of amyloid fibrils, where, at present, the most used marker is thioflavin-T (ThT). Here, we present the use of auramine-O (AuO) as a possible alternative to ThT. As with ThT, the increase in the emission of AuO upon binding to amyloid fibrils is the result of inhibition of the free rotation of the two dimethylamino arms of the molecule. This inhibition prevents the excited-state electronic wave function from moving from the emissive locally excited state to the dark charge-transfer state. We further show that not only AuO is comparable to ThT as a fluorescent marker for amyloid fibrils but also it has a unique spectroscopic signature. AuO has distinct two modes that are characterized by a large shift in the absorption and emission peak positions between its unbound and bound states (before and after the fibrils formation, respectively). In this context, we show that, whereas the emission band position is red-shifting, the absorption peak shifts to the blue and the spectrum exhibits an isosbestic point. The large shifts in emission and absorption peak positions can be explained by the photoacid activity of AuO exhibiting an excited-state proton-transfer process.