Thioflavin T as a Molecular Rotor: Fluorescent Properties of Thioflavin T in Solvents with Different Viscosity

Document Type


Publication Date


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


The effect of solvent viscosity on thioflavin T (ThT) fluorescent properties is analyzed to understand the molecular mechanisms of the characteristic increase in ThT fluorescence intensity accompanying its incorporation into the amyloid-like fibrils. To this end, the dependencies of the ThT quantum yield and fluorescence lifetime on temperature and glycerol content in the water−glycerol mixtures are studied. It has been found that fluorescent properties of ThT are typical for the specific class of fluorophores known as molecular rotors. It has been established that the low ThT fluorescence intensity in the solvents with low viscosity is caused by the nonradiative deactivation of the excited state associated with the torsional motion of the ThT benzthiazole and aminobenzene rings relative to each other, which results in the transition of ThT molecule to nonfluorescent twisted internal charge transfer (TICT) state. The rate of this process is determined by the solvent viscosity, whereas the emission does occur from the nonequilibrium locally excited (LE) state. High polarization degree of the ThT fluorescence (P = 0.45) observed for glycerol solutions of different viscosity confirms the nonequilibrium character of the emission from the LE state and testifies that rotational correlation time of the whole molecule is considerably greater than the time required to accomplish transition to the nonfluorescent TICT state. Torsional movements of the ThT fragments take place in the same temporal interval as solvent relaxation, which leads to nonexponential fluorescence decay of the dye in viscous solvents. This photophysical model successfully explains the fluorescent properties of ThT in solvents with different viscosities. The model is confirmed by the results of the quantum-chemical calculations, which showed that energy minimum for the ground state of ThT corresponds to conformation with torsional angle φ = 37° between the benzthiazole and aminobenzene rings and in the excited-state twisted conformation of ThT with φ = 90° has minimal energy. These data support the idea that the reason for the characteristic increase in the ThT fluorescence intensity accompanying its incorporation into the amyloid fibrils is determined by the rigidity of the dye environment, which prevents the rotation of the benzthiazole ring relative to the aminobenzene ring in the excited state.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, v. 112, p. 15893-15902