Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most common forms of senile disease. In recent years, the incidence of AD has been increasing significantly with the acceleration of the aging process of the global population. However, current clinical drugs can only alleviate the symptoms of AD patients without healing the disease fundamentally. Therefore, it is of great significance to develop an effective small molecule diagnostic reagent for the early diagnosis of AD. In this paper, we employ an integrated approach, including molecular docking simulation and quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics calculation, to investigate the sensing performance of a series of donor–acceptor structural probes for the marker protein of AD (β
-amyloid). Results show that the probes display evident fluorescence enhancement when bound to the β
-amyloid, suggesting the effect of the environment on the molecular properties. Especially, the two-photon absorption cross-section of the probes increase drastically in the β
-amyloid compared to that in vacuum, which results from the larger electron delocalization and dipole moment in the fibrillary-like environment. Thus, one can propose that the studied probes are capable of application in two-photon fluorescent imaging, particularly those containing naphthalene rings as the donor or with a longer spacer group. Our calculations elucidate the experimental measurements reasonably, and further establish possible structure–property relationships that can be used to design novel biocompatible two-photon fluorescent probes for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
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