Fluorescent block copolymer micelles that can self-report on their assembly and small molecule encapsulation

Mathew Robin, Shani Osborne, Zoe Pikramenou, Jeffery E. Raymond, Rachel O'Reiley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
265 Downloads (Pure)


Block copolymer micelles have been prepared with a dithiomaleimide (DTM) fluorophore located in either the core or shell. Poly(triethylene glycol acrylate)-b-poly(tertbutyl acrylate) (P(TEGA)-b-P(tBA)) was synthesized by RAFT polymerization, with a DTM-functional acrylate monomer copolymerized into either the core forming P(tBA) block or the shell forming P(TEGA) block. Self-assembly by direct dissolution afforded spherical micelles with Rh of ca. 35 nm. Core-labeled micelles (CLMs) displayed bright emission (Φf = 17%) due to good protection of the fluorophore, whereas shell-labeled micelles (SLMs) had lower efficiency emission due to collisional quenching in the solvated corona. The transition from micelles to polymer unimers upon dilution could be detected by measuring the emission intensity of the solutions. For the core-labeled micelles, the fluorescence lifetime was also responsive to the supramolecular state, the lifetime being significantly longer for the micelles (τAv,I = 19 ns) than for the polymer unimers (τAv,I = 9 ns). The core-labeled micelles could also self-report on the presence of a fluorescent hydrophobic guest molecule (Nile Red) as a result of Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) between the DTM fluorophore and the guest. The sensitivity of the DTM fluorophore to its environment therefore provides a simple handle to obtain detailed structural information for the labeled polymer micelles. A case will also be made for the application superiority of core-labeled micelles over shell-labeled micelles for the DTM fluorophore.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-662
Issue number2
Early online date6 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2016


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