Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

McCarroll, Matthew

Second Advisor

Scott, Colleen


Chemical sensors capable of detecting a specific atom or molecule under various conditions have been utilized in biological and environmental analyses. Fluorescence based sensors are particularly advantageous in these studies because of their high sensitivity, relative ease in handling, and low technical costs. This dissertation focuses on the detection of two analytes, H+ and hypochlorous acid, which are of interest in biology because the presence of abnormal quantities of these analytes may be indicative of disease. We have established a new platform for which sensitive changes in various regions of pH can be detected using fluorescence. The aminomethylrhodamine (AMR) scaffold is highly versatile, i.e. the pH range in which the sensor is active can be tuned by introducing different substituents on the amine moiety. Overall this systematic approach to the design of pH sensitive fluorophores has allowed for a library of compounds that are responsive over a broad range of pH (pH 3 - 10) by simply changing the substituent on the amino group. We report the synthesis and characterization of a silicon analog of rhodamine for the fluorescence based detection of hypochlorous acid. This fluorophore exhibits a 90 nm bathochromic shift in its absorption and emission, relative to its oxygen counterpart. Hypochlorous acid is a biological agent linked to certain diseases. Therefore, the longer wavelength properties of the this far-red fluorescent sensor will be of significant benefit to imaging experiments of this analyte in biological media and tissue due to its spectral proximity of the so called NIR optical window. Furthermore, the novel synthetic methodology of this sensor possesses a key intermediate, which could potentially lead to future fluorescence based sensors. The characterization of a fluorescent probe designed for the detection of hypochlorous acid (HOCl) using a silicon analog of fluorescein (SiF) was also reported. Over a range of pHs, the probe reacts with a stoichiometric amount of HOCl resulting in a mixture of two pH dependent fluorescent species, a SiF disulfide product and a SiF sulfonate product. The unique colorometric properties of the individual SiF fluorophores were utilized to perform simultaneous detection of HOCl and pH. When an excess of HOCl is present, the SiF fluorophores become chlorinated, via an intermediate halohydrin, resulting in a more pH independent and red-shifted fluorophore. Finally, an attempt was made at developing a pH responsive photodynamic therapy agent. This system was designed to target the relatively low extracellular pH found around tumors. A di-bromohydroxymethylrhodamine system was synthesized and the photophysical properties were characterized. This system absorbs weakly under acidic conditions (ca. pH 3), however was shown to be a moderate photosensitizer under acidic conditions.




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