Advances in reaction-based synthetic fluorescent probes for studying the role of zinc and copper ions in living systems

Kensuke Okuda, Ippei Takashima, Akira Takagi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recently, the behavior of essential trace metal elements in living organisms has attracted more and more attention as their dynamics have been found to be tightly regulated by metallothionines, transporters, etc. As the physiological and/or pathological roles of such metal elements are critical, there have been many non-invasive methods developed to determine their cellular functions, mainly by small molecule fluorescent probes. In this review, we focus on probes that detect intracellular zinc and monovalent copper. Both zinc and copper act not only as tightly bound cofactors of enzymes and proteins but also as signaling factors as labile or loosely bound species. Many fluorescent probes that detect mobile zinc or monovalent copper are recognition-based probes, whose detection is hindered by the abundance of intracellular chelators such as glutathione which interfere with the interaction between probe and metal. In contrast, reaction-based probes release fluorophores triggered by zinc or copper and avoid interference from such intracellular chelators, allowing the detection of even low concentrations of such metals. Here, we summarize the current status of the cumulative effort to develop such reaction-based probes and discuss the strategies adopted to overcome their shortcomings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • copper
  • glutathione
  • reaction-based fluorescent probe
  • signal amplification
  • zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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