Developing high-quality NIR-II fluorophores (emission in 1000-1700 nm) for in vivo imaging is of great significance. Benzothiadiazole-core fluorophores are an important class of NIR-II dyes, yet ongoing limitations such as aggregation-caused quenching in aqueous milieu and non-activatable response are still major obstacles for their biological applications. Here, we devise an activatable nanoprobe to address these limitations. A molecular probe named BTPE-NO2 is synthesized by linking a benzothiadiazole core with two tetraphenylene groups serving as hydrophobic molecular rotors, followed by incorporating two nitrophenyloxoacetamide units at both ends of the core as recognition moieties and fluorescence quenchers. An FDA-approved amphiphilic polymer Pluronic F127 is then employed to encapsulate the molecular BTPE-NO2 to render the nanoprobe BTPE-NO2@F127. The pathological levels of H2O2 in the disease sites cleave the nitrophenyloxoacetamide groups and activate the probe, thereby generating strong fluorescent emission (950~1200 nm) and ultrasound signal for multi-mode imaging of inflammatory diseases. The nanoprobe can therefore function as a robust tool for detecting and imaging the disease sites with NIR-II fluorescent and multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) imaging. Moreover, the three-dimensional MSOT images can be obtained for visualizing and locating the disease foci.

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