The invention provides lanthanide chelates capable of intense luminescence. The celates comprise a lanthanide chelator covalently joined to a coumarin-like or quinolone-like sensitizer. Exemplary sensitzers include 2- or 4-quinolones, 2- or 4-coumarins, or derivatives thereof e.g. carbostyril 124 (7-amino-4-methyl-2-quinolone), coumarin 120 (7-amino-4-methyl-2-coumarin), coumarin 124 (7-amino-4-(trifluoromethyl)-2-coumarin), aminomethyltrimethylpsoralen, etc. The chelates form high affinity complexes with lanthanides, such as terbium or europium, through chelator groups, such as DTPA. The chelates may be coupled to a wide variety of compounds to create specific labels, probes, diagnostic and/or therapeutic reagents, etc. The chelates find particular use in resonance energy transfer between chelate-lanthanide complexes and another luminescent agent, often a fluorescent non-metal based resonance energy acceptor. The methods provide useful information about the structure, conformation, relative location and/or interactions of macromolecules.
The research carried out in the subject application was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Office of Energy Research. The government may have rights in any patent issuing on this application.