A study of imidazole-based nuclear magnetic resonance probes of cellular pH

Charles Gasparovic, Ignasi Barba, Jerry Born, Sandra Barton, Carles Arús, Paul Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


A number of imidazole-based compounds were tested for their utility as 1H NMR molecular probes of intracellular pH. Imidazole, previously found useful as a probe of erythrocyte pH, reported a pH in perfused canine glioma cells that was more than 1 pH unit lower than that reported by inorganic phosphate, consistent with the known lysosomal compartmentation of the molecule. Imidazole acetate, also proposed as an NMR probe of cellular pH, was found not to enter the cells of this study. Histidine was found to be readily taken up by cells and reported a pH consistent with that reported by inorganic phosphate. Using the chemical shift of the histidine H2 proton in cells incubated with 10 mM histidine, cellular pH measurements could be obtained in less than 1 s. This compares quite favorably with the measurement time, typically several minutes, needed to assess in vivo pH by 31P NMR. The use of histidine as a probe of pH is demonstrated in perfused canine and rat glioma cells subjected to ischemia or to low extracellular pH.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-72
JournalAnalytical Biochemistry
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 1998


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