Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play key roles in many pathogenic processes, including carcinogenesis, inflammation, ischemia-reperfusion injury and signal transduction. Also, reactive nitrogen species (RNS) cause various biological events such as neurodegenerative disorders. Sensitive and specific detection methods for ROS and RNS in biological samples should be useful for elucidation of biological events both in vitro and in vivo. Fluorescent probes based on small organic molecules have become indispensable tools in modern biology because they provide dynamic information concerning the localization and quantity of biological molecules of interest, without the need of genetic engineering of the sample. In this review, we recount some recent achievements in the field of small molecular fluorescent probes. First, the probes for nitric oxide and peroxynitrite as RNS are introduced and the probes of hydroxyl radical, hydrogen peroxide, hypochlorous and singlet oxygen as ROS are discussed, based on the fluorescence off/on switching mechanisms including photoinduced electron transfer and spirocyclization processes, and with some applications for in vitro and in vivo systems.
2009 by The Editorial Secretariat of JCBN