Biomater. Sci., 2019, Advance Article
Efficient monosubstitution of the non-iodinated, mono-iodinated and di-iodinated m-carborane cluster at one Ccluster has led to the preparation of three single organic molecule-carborane dyads (4–6), which exhibited exceptional fluorescence properties with quantum yield values of 100% in solution, for all of them, with maxima around 415 nm, which correspond to the locally excited state (LE) emission. These results suggest that simply linking the m-carborane fragment to one anthracene unit through a CH2 spacer produces a significant enhancement of the fluorescence in the final fluorophore, probably due to the free rotation of the anthracene linked to the Ccluster. Besides, the presence of one or two iodine atoms linked to boron atoms does not cause any influence on the photophysical properties of the dyads, as it is confirmed by TD-DFT calculations. Notably, the three conjugates show good fluorescence efficiency in the aggregate state with quantum yields in the range of 19–23%, which could be ascribed to the presence of CH2, particularly for 4, and the iodine atoms in 5 and 6, which prevent π–π stacking. All these results indicate that our dyads are extremely good emitters in solution while maintaining the emission properties in the aggregate state. Crystal packing, fingerprint plot analysis, and TD-DFT calculations for the three compounds support these results. Confocal microscopy studies show that 6 is the best-internalized compound by HeLa cells via endocytosis, although 4 and 5 also presented a high fluorescence intensity emission. Moreover, due to the blue emission, this compound is an excellent candidate to be applied as a fluorescent dye in bioimaging studies.