2D Strategy for the Construction of an Enzyme-Activated NIR Fluorophore Suitable for the Visual Sensing and Profiling of Homologous Nitroreductases from Various Bacterial Species

Tao Liu, Yifei Wang, Lei Feng, Xiangge Tian, Jingnan Cui, Zhenlong Yu, Chao Wang, Baojing Zhang, Tony D. James, Xiaochi Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nitroreductases (NTRs) mediate the reduction of nitroaromatic compounds to the corresponding nitrite, hydroxylamine, or amino derivatives. The activity of NTRs in bacteria facilitates the metabolic activation and antibacterial activity of 5-nitroimidazoles. Therefore, NTR activity correlates with the drug susceptibility and resistance of pathogenic bacteria. As such, it is important to develop a rapid and visual assay for the real-time sensing of bacterial NTRs for the evaluation and development of antibiotics. Herein, an activatable near-infrared fluorescent probe (HC-NO2) derived from a hemicyanine fluorophore was designed and developed based on two evaluation factors, including the calculated partition coefficient (Clog P) and fluorescence wavelength. Using HC-NO2 as the special substrate of NTRs, NTR activity can be assayed efficiently, and then, bacteria can be imaged based on the detection of NTRs. More importantly, a sensitive in-gel assay using HC-NO2 has been developed to selectively identify NTRs and sensitively determine NTR activity. Using the in-gel assay, NTRs from various bacterial species have been profiled visually from the "fluorescence fingerprints", which facilitates the rapid identification of NTRs from bacterial lysates. Thus, various homologous NTRs were identified from three metronidazole-susceptible bacterial species as well as seven unsusceptible species, which were confirmed by the whole-genome sequence. As such, the evaluation of NTRs from different bacterial species should help improve the rational usage of 5-nitroimidazole drugs as antibiotics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3348–3356
Number of pages9
JournalACS Sensors
Issue number9
Early online date1 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2021


  • bacteria
  • fluorescent probe
  • nitroreductases
  • protein identification
  • visual sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Instrumentation
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes

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