Selective Fluorescent Probes to Detect Nitric Oxide

Life Sciences : Research Tools

Available for licensing


  • Eric Anslyn, Ph.D. , Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Youjun Yang, Ph.D. , Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Michelle Ivy, Ph.D. , Chemistry and Biochemistry

Background/unmet need

Nitric oxide (NO) has been linked to a wide array of disease states; its normal production has been shown to induce vasodilation, and its overproduction has been linked to infection and inflammation. Abnormal nitric oxide underproduction has been linked to ischemic stroke, for instance, and abnormal overproduction has been linked to, among other diseases, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and several cancers.

Because of nitric oxide’s presence in numerous biological processes, a method is needed to detect nitric oxide in-vivo in order to study and characterize it. A number of sensing methods have been used to detect NO, such as absorbance spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, chemiluminescence, EPR, and electrochemistry. Among the various methods, fluorescent detection of NO has been welcomed by the scientific community due to its compatibility with microscopy for fast and convenient studies. Currently, many nitric oxide sensors are commercially available; however, conventional sensing methods have numerous disadvantages, resulting in a great demand for improvement for novel sensors.

Invention Description

The researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a simple indicator molecule which, upon contact with nitric oxide under aerobic conditions, reacts to form a red-shifted molecule capable of fluorescent imaging and characterization in the system. Fluorescence as an imaging method is valued for its ease of use. The molecule is highly sensitive to nitric oxide while being specifically non-reactive to ascorbic acid. Furthermore, this indicator can be synthesized in two steps from commercially available reagents and does not require the assembly of a dye skeleton, which greatly simplifies the production process and reduces the associated costs. This indicator also has a selectivity for nitric oxide and has favorable reaction kinetics.


  • Simple to use.
  • Highly selective for the nitrisonium ion.
  • Reasonably fast reaction kinetics.
  • Fluoresces with uncommon brightness.
  • Also effective within cellular media. 


  • Red-shifted spectral properties.
  • Does not react with ascorbic or dehydroascrobic acid.
  • Favorable reaction kinetics.
  • Useful applications in biological sensing.

Market potential/applications

The sensor is applicable for the florescent detection of nitric oxide in biological systems as well as the detection of nitric oxide in cellular media.

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status