To Fluoresce or Not to Fluoresce: Investigation of Structural and Fluorescence Characteristics of CBI-Dopamine, CBI-Serotonin, and Their Structural Analogs


Dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) are neurotransmitters that are vital for proper brain function and are implicated in a wide variety of diseases and disorders. Unfortunately, quantitative analysis of DA and 5-HT is difficult, as they are present at low concentrations in complex biological matrices. The fluorogenic reaction of napththalene-2,3-dicarboxaldehyde (NDA) with a primary amine in the presence of cyanide (CN) creates an N-substituted 1-cyanobenz[f]isoindole (CBI) derivative, whose fluorescence can be sensitively monitored in biological matrices. Given their biological importance, there are surprisingly few reports showing fluorescence of CBI-DA and no prior publications concerning CBI-5-HT. In this work, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) was employed to determine the atom connectivity of over 10 CBI-products, including CBI-DA and CBI-5-HT. NMR and fluorescence spectroscopy were applied to CBI-DA, CBI-5-HT, and select structural analogs to determine structural correlations with the observed lack of fluorescence. Experiments with CBI-DA and structural analogs indicated fluorescence was rapidly quenched due to both complexation with the historically employed buffer and oxidation in solution. Fluorescence of CBI-DA was recovered by modifying the derivatization background to prevent complexation and oxidation. In contrast, fluorescence characterization of CBI-5-HT and its structural analogs indicated that 5-HT was acting as a quencher of the CBI-ring. The addition of acid to protonate 5-HT was found to disrupt this interaction and enable the first reported fluorescence detection of CBI-5-HT. In the future, this work will be applied to detect DA and 5-HT in biological systems to gain insight into neurobiological disease states and disorders.


ACS Publications

Publication Date


Publication Title

Analytical Chemistry


Chemistry and Biochemistry

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Amines, Aromatic compounds, Fluorescence, Hydrocarbons, Surface analysis