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April 1982

Carboxyfluorescein: A Probe of the Blood-Ocular Barriers With Lower Membrane Permeability Than Fluorescein

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Ophthalmology, Scheie Eye Institute, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia.

Arch Ophthalmol. 1982;100(4):635-639. doi:10.1001/archopht.1982.01030030637022

• We have examined the permeability of the blood-ocular barriers to carboxyfluorescein, a dye similar in spectral properties but more polar than fluorescein. Octanol-buffer partition ratios of carboxyfluorescein, measured as an indication of lipid solubility, were approximately 1,000 times lower than those of fluorescein at pH values between 6.40 and 8.03. The partition ratios of both dyes show pronounced pH dependence. We also evaluated intraocular dye distribution by fluorescence microscopy after intravenous (IV) injection in rats. Carboxyfluorescein does not penetrate ciliary or iris epithelial cells, whereas fluorescein prominently stains these cells. Quantitative measurement of fluorescence intensity demonstrates that carboxyfluorescein does not enter the retina even when high doses are administered. Fluorescein, in contrast, can be detected throughout the retina with fluorescence intensity levels proportional to the IV dose administered. The relative inability of carboxyfluorescein to penetrate the blood-ocular barriers is not caused by greater binding to plasma proteins, since the plasma concentration of free carboxyfluorescein is greater than that of fluorescein. We conclude that carboxyfluorescein has potential experimental and clinical use as a probe of the blood-ocular barriers. Because of its low membrane permeability, it may yield a better definition of the nature of barrier abnormalities than is now possible with fluorescein.

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