Specific Imaging of Intracellular Lipid Droplets Using a Benzothiadiazole Derivative with Solvatochromic Properties

Altered lipid metabolism and extensive lipid storage in cells have been associated with various medical disorders, including cancer. The development of fluorescent probes that specifically accumulate in lipid deposits is therefore of great interest in order to study pathological processes that are linked to dysregulated lipogenesis. In the present study, we present a small fluorescent benzothiadiazole dye that specifically stains lipid droplets in living and fixated cells. The photophysical characterization of the probe revealed strong solvatochromic behavior, large Stokes shifts, and high fluorescent quantum yields in hydrophobic solvents. In addition, the fluorophore exhibits a nontoxic profile and a high signal-to-noise ratio in cells (i.e., lipid droplets vs cytosol), which make it an excellent candidate for studying lipid biology using confocal fluorescent microscopy.