Crown ethers, discovered by the winner of the Nobel Prize Charles Pedersen, are cyclic chemical compounds that consist of a ring or multiple rings containing several ether groups that are capable of binding alkali ions. A smart fluorescent probe containing a crown ether moiety could be developed as a sensor for metal ions, anions and other bio-molecules and be further applied to monitor the relevant biological process in vivo. This review highlights recent advances which can be divided into seven parts: (i) fluorescent probes containing a simple crown ether or an aza-crown ether structure; (ii) fluorescent probes containing an azathia crown ether; (iii) fluorescent probes containing a cryptand; (iv) fluorescent probes containing two or more binding sites; (v) crown ether derivatives-metal complex assisted chemosensing of bioactive species; (vi) crown ether-based chemosensors for bioactive molecular detection; and (vii) efforts to improve biological relevance.
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© 2017 The Royal Society of Chemistry.
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