Palette of fluorinated voltage sensitive dyes from Potentiometric Probes

Overview of Voltage-Sensitive Dyes from Potentiometric Probes

Dyes such as Di-4-ANEPPS  and Di-4-AN(F)EPPTEA  fluoresce when bound to cell membranes. These fast-response probes change their fluorescence properties in response to changes in the surrounding electric field allowing an optical readout of transmembrane potential. The response is fast enough to detect transient (millisecond) potential changes in excitable cells, including single neurons, cardiac cells, even intact brains and hearts (link to citations). Although the magnitude of their potential-dependent fluorescence change is often small (2–10% fluorescence change per 100 mV), excellent signal-to-noise can still be obtained thanks to bright and highly stable fluorescence. Fluorination was introduced as a way to improve photostability, which allows stronger excitation and less photobleaching. At the same time, fluorination allows spectra to be fine tuned, providing flexibility for integration with other fluorescent probes/labels.

Stark-shift electrochromic dye molecules are comprised of 3 main components: the fluorophor, polar head group, and membrane binding motif. Several variations of dyes based on a common fluorphor backbone are made by changing the polar head group, and lipophilic membrane binding domain. This is can be thought of as a toolkit to modify solubility/membrane binding properties, fine tune spectral properties, etc. Fluorination is a final modification that improves photostability and shifts spectra producing a “palette” of voltage-sensitive dyes as shown above.

While general information about dye properties can be found here, contact Potentiometric Probes for recommendations of the best dye for your specific application and imaging modality.

The two main backbones are:

ANEP: (AminoNaphthylEthenylPyridinium) with a peak absorption wavelength range from 450 to 510nm.

ANBDQ: (AminoNapthylButydienylQuinolinium) red shifted to longer wavelengths, peak absorption wavelength range from 530 to >550nm.

Membrane binding motifs:

Di-4/Di-2: Describes the dye’s two membrane binding alkyl/hydrocarbon chains with 4 or 2 carbons for example. Generally speaking a longer hydrocarbon tail improves membrane binding and reduces aqueous solubility.

Dye solubility:

Dye solubility depends strongly on several factors. Dyes with a propyl-sulfonate (PS) polar head group such as Di-4-ANEPPS are not soluble in aqueous solutions whereas dyes with TEA (triethylamine) head group such as Di-4-AN(F)EPPTEA may be highly soluble in aqueous solutions.


Fluorine atoms can be substituted at various locations on the dye molecule. An (F) appears in the dye’s name at the location matching the fluorine’s location. For example Di-4-AN(F)EPPTEA is the same as Di-4-ANEPPTEA except with a fluorine on the naphthyl. The location dependent spectral shift results in a “palette” of VSD variants.

Dye packaging and storage:

Dyes are sold as pre-aliquoted, pre-dried amounts suitable for typical assays for convenience. The tubes of dried dye can be stored easily (-4°C with desiccant, in the dark) saving the user extra steps of preparing stock solutions and removing solvents.

Dyes Available from Potentiometric Probes

Other dyes may also be available, please contact for more information.