Photoacoustic (PA) imaging with both the high contrast of optical imaging and the high spatial resolution of ultrasound imaging has been regarded as a robust biomedical imaging technique. Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is the second largest liver inflammatory disease after viral hepatitis, but its pathogenesis is not fully understood probably due to the lack of an effective in vivo monitoring approach. In this work, an innovative selenol-activated ratiometric PA imaging probe APSel was developed for visual monitoring of pathological progress of AIH. Selenols including selenocysteine (Sec, the major form of Se-containing species in vivo) have been demonstrated to have an effective antioxidant role in inflammation. The reaction of APSel with selenol results in a blue shift of the PA spectrum peak from 860 nm to 690 nm, which enables the ratiometric PA imaging. The APSel probe displays high sensitivity and selectivity to Sec and other selenols. The APSel probe was then employed for ratiometric PA imaging of selenol in cells, and for monitoring the development of AIH in a murine model by tracking the changes of selenol level. The results revealed that the level of selenol was closely correlated with the development of AIH. The proposed APSel, as the first example of a selenol-responsive PA imaging probe, provides a new tool and approach to study and diagnose AIH diseases.

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