Zinc(II)-Tetradentate-Coordinated Probe with Aggregation-Induced Emission Characteristics for Selective Imaging and Photoinactivation of Bacteria

The emergence of drug-resistant bacterial pathogens highlights an urgent need for new therapeutic options. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) has emerged as a potential alternative to antibiotics to kill bacteria, which has been used in clinical settings. PDT employs photosensitizers (PSs), light, and oxygen to kill bacteria by generating highly reactive oxygen species (ROS). PDT can target both external and internal structures of bacteria, which does not really require the PSs to enter bacteria. Therefore, bacteria can hardly develop resistance to PDT. However, most of the PSs reported so far are hydrophobic and tend to form aggregates when they interact with bacteria. The aggregation could cause fluorescence quenching and reduce ROS generation, which generally compromises the effects of both imaging and therapy. In this contribution, we report on a Zn­(II)-tetradentate-coordinated red-emissive probe with aggregation-induced emission characterization. The probe could selectively image bacteria over mammalian cells. Moreover, the probe shows potent phototoxicity to both Gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli) and Gram-positive bacteria (Bacillus subtilis).