A new series of D–π–A (TKB1-TKB3) structural chromophores with various electron donor units were designed, synthesized, and fully characterized. Their photophysical properties and cytotoxicity were investigated, and practical applications evaluated by fluorescence imaging in living cells. A direct dependence of the optical properties on the electron donor groups has been revealed for all the samples. To this purpose, time-dependent density functional theory calculations were conducted. Finally, dyes showed high biocompatibility, long-term retention and low cytotoxicity in different cell-lines including neuroblastoma cell (SH-SY5).
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