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9 Publications

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    05/24/21 | A general method to improve fluorophores using deuterated auxochromes.
    Grimm JB, Xie L, Casler JC, Patel R, Tkachuk AN, Falco N, Choi H, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Brown TA, Glick BS, Liu Z, Lavis LD
    JACS Au. 2021 May 24;1(5):690-6. doi: 10.1021/jacsau.1c00006

    Fluorescence microscopy relies on dyes that absorb and then emit photons. In addition to fluorescence, fluorophores can undergo photochemical processes that decrease quantum yield or result in spectral shifts and irreversible photobleaching. Chemical strategies that suppress these undesirable pathways—thereby increasing the brightness and photostability of fluorophores—are crucial for advancing the frontier of bioimaging. Here, we describe a general method to improve small-molecule fluorophores by incorporating deuterium into the alkylamino auxochromes of rhodamines and other dyes. This strategy increases fluorescence quantum yield, inhibits photochemically induced spectral shifts, and slows irreparable photobleaching, yielding next-generation labels with improved performance in cellular imaging experiments.

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    01/03/21 | Direct detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA using high-contrast pH-sensitive dyes.
    Timothy A. Brown , Katherine S. Schaefer , Arthur Tsang , Hyun Ah Yi , Jonathan B. Grimm , Andrew L. Lemire , Fadi M. Jradi , Charles Kim , Kevin McGowan , Kimberly Ritola , Derek T. Armstrong , Heba H. Mostafa , Wyatt Korff , Ronald D. Vale , Luke D. Lavis
    medRxiv. 2021 Jan 03:. doi:

    The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on health, healthcare infrastructure, social structure, and economics. One of the limiting factors in containing the spread of this virus has been the lack of widespread availability of fast, inexpensive, and reliable methods for testing of individuals. Frequent screening for infected and often asymptomatic people is a cornerstone of pandemic management plans. Here, we introduce two pH sensitive ‘LAMPshade’ dyes as novel readouts in an isothermal RT- LAMP amplification assay for SARS-CoV-2 RNA. The resulting JaneliaLAMP (jLAMP) assay is robust, simple, inexpensive, has low technical requirements and we describe its use and performance in direct testing of contrived and clinical samples without RNA extraction.

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    08/20/20 | Rational design of bioavailable photosensitizers for manipulation and imaging of biological systems.
    Binns TC, Ayala AX, Grimm JB, Tkachuk AN, Castillon GA, Phan S, Zhang L, Brown TA, Liu Z, Adams SR, Ellisman MH, Koyama M, Lavis LD
    Cell Chemical Biology. 2020 Aug 20;27(8):1063-72. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2020.07.001

    Light-mediated chemical reactions are powerful methods for manipulating and interrogating biological systems. Photosensitizers, compounds that generate reactive oxygen species upon excitation with light, can be utilized for numerous biological experiments, but the repertoire of bioavailable photosensitizers is limited. Here, we describe the synthesis, characterization, and utility of two photosensitizers based upon the widely used rhodamine scaffold and demonstrate their efficacy for chromophore-assisted light inactivation, cell ablation in culture and in vivo, and photopolymerization of diaminobenzidine for electron microscopy. These chemical tools will facilitate a broad range of applications spanning from targeted destruction of proteins to high-resolution imaging.

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    07/27/20 | A general method to optimize and functionalize red-shifted rhodamine dyes.
    Grimm JB, Tkachuk AN, Xie L, Choi H, Mohar B, Falco N, Schaefer K, Patel R, Zheng Q, Liu Z, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Brown TA, Lavis LD
    Nature Methods. 2020 Jul 27:. doi: 10.1038/s41592-020-0909-6

    Expanding the palette of fluorescent dyes is vital to push the frontier of biological imaging. Although rhodamine dyes remain the premier type of small-molecule fluorophore owing to their bioavailability and brightness, variants excited with far-red or near-infrared light suffer from poor performance due to their propensity to adopt a lipophilic, nonfluorescent form. We report a framework for rationalizing rhodamine behavior in biological environments and a general chemical modification for rhodamines that optimizes long-wavelength variants and enables facile functionalization with different chemical groups. This strategy yields red-shifted 'Janelia Fluor' (JF) dyes useful for biological imaging experiments in cells and in vivo.

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    11/01/18 | Stability, affinity and chromatic variants of the glutamate sensor iGluSnFR.
    Marvin JS, Scholl B, Wilson DE, Podgorski K, Kazemipour A, Mueller JA, Schoch-McGovern S, Wang SS, Quiroz FJ, Rebola N, Bao H, Little JP, Tkachuk AN, Hantman AW, Chapman ER, Dietrich D, DiGregorio DA, Fitzpatrick D, Looger LL
    Nature Methods. 2018 Nov;15(11):9386-9. doi: 10.1038/s41592-018-0171-3

    Single-wavelength fluorescent reporters allow visualization of specific neurotransmitters with high spatial and temporal resolution. We report variants of intensity-based glutamate-sensing fluorescent reporter (iGluSnFR) that are functionally brighter; detect submicromolar to millimolar amounts of glutamate; and have blue, cyan, green, or yellow emission profiles. These variants could be imaged in vivo in cases where original iGluSnFR was too dim, resolved glutamate transients in dendritic spines and axonal boutons, and allowed imaging at kilohertz rates.

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    09/19/17 | Synthesis of Janelia Fluor HaloTag and SNAP-Tag Ligands and Their Use in Cellular Imaging Experiments.
    Grimm JB, Brown TA, English BP, Lionnet T, Lavis LD
    Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.). 2017;1663:179-188. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-7265-4_15

    The development of genetically encoded self-labeling protein tags such as the HaloTag and SNAP-tag has expanded the utility of chemical dyes in microscopy. Intracellular labeling using these systems requires small, cell-permeable dyes with high brightness and photostability. We recently discovered a general method to improve the properties of classic fluorophores by replacing N,N-dimethylamino groups with four-membered azetidine rings to create the "Janelia Fluor" dyes. Here, we describe the synthesis of the HaloTag and SNAP-tag ligands of Janelia Fluor 549 and Janelia Fluor 646 as well as standard labeling protocols for use in ensemble and single-molecule cellular imaging.

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    09/05/17 | A general method to fine-tune fluorophores for live-cell and in vivo imaging.
    Grimm JB, Muthusamy AK, Liang Y, Brown TA, Lemon WC, Patel R, Lu R, Macklin JJ, Keller PJ, Ji N, Lavis LD
    Nature Methods. 2017 Oct;14(10):987-994. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4403

    Pushing the frontier of fluorescence microscopy requires the design of enhanced fluorophores with finely tuned properties. We recently discovered that incorporation of four-membered azetidine rings into classic fluorophore structures elicits substantial increases in brightness and photostability, resulting in the Janelia Fluor (JF) series of dyes. We refined and extended this strategy, finding that incorporation of 3-substituted azetidine groups allows rational tuning of the spectral and chemical properties of rhodamine dyes with unprecedented precision. This strategy allowed us to establish principles for fine-tuning the properties of fluorophores and to develop a palette of new fluorescent and fluorogenic labels with excitation ranging from blue to the far-red. Our results demonstrate the versatility of these new dyes in cells, tissues and animals.

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    08/09/17 | General synthetic method for Si-Fluoresceins and Si-Rhodamines.
    Grimm JB, Brown TA, Tkachuk AN, Lavis LD
    ACS Central Science. 2017 Aug 09;3(9):975-85. doi: 10.1021/acscentsci.7b00247

    The century-old fluoresceins and rhodamines persist as flexible scaffolds for fluorescent and fluorogenic compounds. Extensive exploration of these xanthene dyes has yielded general structure–activity relationships where the development of new probes is limited only by imagination and organic chemistry. In particular, replacement of the xanthene oxygen with silicon has resulted in new red-shifted Si-fluoresceins and Si-rhodamines, whose high brightness and photostability enable advanced imaging experiments. Nevertheless, efforts to tune the chemical and spectral properties of these dyes have been hindered by difficult synthetic routes. Here, we report a general strategy for the efficient preparation of Si-fluoresceins and Si-rhodamines from readily synthesized bis(2-bromophenyl)silane intermediates. These dibromides undergo metal/bromide exchange to give bis-aryllithium or bis(aryl Grignard) intermediates, which can then add to anhydride or ester electrophiles to afford a variety of Si-xanthenes. This strategy enabled efficient (3–5 step) syntheses of known and novel Si-fluoresceins, Si-rhodamines, and related dye structures. In particular, we discovered that previously inaccessible tetrafluorination of the bottom aryl ring of the Si-rhodamines resulted in dyes with improved visible absorbance in solution, and a convenient derivatization through fluoride-thiol substitution. This modular, divergent synthetic method will expand the palette of accessible xanthenoid dyes across the visible spectrum, thereby pushing further the frontiers of biological imaging.

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    10/24/16 | Bright photoactivatable fluorophores for single-molecule imaging.
    Lavis LD, Grimm JB, English BP, Choi H, Muthusamy AK, Mehl BP, Dong P, Brown TA, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Liu Z, Lionnet T
    Nature Methods. 2016 Oct 24;13(12):985-8. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4034

    Small molecule fluorophores are important tools for advanced imaging experiments. The development of self-labeling protein tags such as the HaloTag and SNAP-tag has expanded the utility of chemical dyes in live-cell microscopy. We recently described a general method for improving the brightness and photostability of small, cell-permeable fluorophores, resulting in the novel azetidine-containing "Janelia Fluor" (JF) dyes. Here, we refine and extend the utility of the JF dyes by synthesizing photoactivatable derivatives that are compatible with live cell labeling strategies. These compounds retain the superior brightness of the JF dyes once activated, but their facile photoactivation also enables improved single-particle tracking and localization microscopy experiments.

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