N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPA) based uniform thermosensitive microgels were synthesized by dispersion polymerization by using relatively hydrophilic crosslinking agents with hydroxyl functionality. Glycerol dimethacrylate (GDMA), pentaerythritol triacrylate (PETA) and pentaerythritol propoxylate triacrylate (PEPTA) were used as crosslinking agents with different hydrophilicities. A protocol was first proposed to determine the crosslinking density distribution in the thermosensitive microgel particles by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). The microgels were fluorescently labeled by using hydroxyl group of the crosslinking agent. The CLSM observations performed with the microgels synthesized by three different crosslinking agents showed that the crosslinking density exhibited a quadratic decrease with the increasing radial distance in the spherical microgel particles. This structure led to the formation of more loose gel structure on the particle surface with respect to the center. Then the use of hydrophilic crosslinking agents in the dispersion polymerization of NIPA made possible the synthesis of thermosensitive microgels carrying long, flexible and chemically derivatizable (i.e., hydroxyl functionalized) fringes on the surface by a single-stage dispersion polymerization. The microgels with all crosslinking agents exhibited volume phase transition with the increasing temperature. The microget obtained by the most hydrophilic crosslinking agent, GDMA exhibited higher hydrodynamic diameters in the fully swollen form at low temperatures than those obtained by PETA and PEPTA. Higher hydrodynamic size decrease from fully swollen form to the fully shrunken form was also observed with the same microgel. (c) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.