Limitations of available indicators [such as 6-methoxy-N-(3-sulfopropyl)quinolinium (SPQ)] for measurement of intracellular Cl(-) are their relatively dim fluorescence and need for ultraviolet excitation. A series of long-wavelength polar fluorophores was screened to identify compounds with Cl(-) and/or I(-) sensitivity, bright fluorescence, low toxicity, uniform loading of cytoplasm with minimal leakage, and chemical stability in cells. The best compound found was 7-(beta-D-ribofuranosylamino)-pyrido[2, 1-h]-pteridin-11-ium-5-olate (LZQ). LZQ is brightly fluorescent with excitation and emission maxima at 400-470 and 490-560 nm, molar extinction 11,100 M(-1). cm(-1) (424 nm), and quantum yield 0.53. LZQ fluorescence is quenched by I(-) by a collisional mechanism (Stern-Volmer constant 60 M(-1)) and is not affected by other halides, nitrate, cations, or pH changes (pH 5-8). After LZQ loading into cytoplasm by hypotonic shock or overnight incubation, LZQ remained trapped in cells (leakage <3%/h). LZQ stained cytoplasm uniformly, remained chemically inert, did not bind to cytoplasmic components, and was photobleached by <1% during 1 h of continuous illumination. Cytoplasmic LZQ fluorescence was quenched selectively by I(-) (50% quenching at 38 mM I(-)). LZQ was used to measure forskolin-stimulated I(-)/Cl(-) and I(-)/NO(-)(3) exchange in cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR)-expressing cell lines by fluorescence microscopy and microplate reader instrumentation using 96-well plates. The substantially improved optical and cellular properties of LZQ over existing indicators should permit the quantitative analysis of CFTR function in gene delivery trials and high-throughput screening of compounds for correction of the cystic fibrosis phenotype.