Biocompatible copper(I) catalysts for in vivo imaging of glycans

David Soriano Del Amo, Wei Wang, Hao Jiang, Christen Besanceney, Amy C. Yan, Matthew Levy, Yi Liu, Florence L. Marlow, Peng Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

309 Scopus citations


The Cu(I)-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC) is the standard method for bioorthogonal conjugation. However, current Cu(I) catalyst formulations are toxic, hindering their use in living systems. Here we report that BTTES, a tris(triazolylmethyl)amine-based ligand for Cu(I), promotes the cycloaddition reaction rapidly in living systems without apparent toxicity. This catalyst allows, for the first time, noninvasive imaging of fucosylated glycans during zebrafish early embryogenesis. We microinjected embryos with alkyne-bearing GDP-fucose at the one-cell stage and detected the metabolically incorporated unnatural sugars using the biocompatible click chemistry. Labeled glycans could be imaged in the enveloping layer of zebrafish embryos between blastula and early larval stages. This new method paves the way for rapid, noninvasive imaging of biomolecules in living organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16893-16899
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number47
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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