Coumarins are a very large family of compounds containing the unique 2H-chromen-2-one motif, as it is known according to IUPAC nomenclature. Coumarin derivatives are widely found in nature, especially in plants and are constituents of several essential oils. Up to now, thousands of coumarin derivatives have been isolated from nature or produced by chemists. More recently, the coumarin platform has been widely adopted in the design of small-molecule fluorescent chemosensors because of its excellent biocompatibility, strong and stable fluorescence emission, and good structural flexibility. This scaffold has found wide applications in the development of fluorescent chemosensors in the fields of molecular recognition, molecular imaging, bioorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, materials chemistry, as well as in the biology and medical science communities. This review focuses on the important progress of coumarin-based small-molecule fluorescent chemosensors during the period of 2012-2018. This comprehensive and critical review may facilitate the development of more powerful fluorescent chemosensors for broad and exciting applications in the future.
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