Analytical chemistry

Scanning fluorescence correlation spectroscopy: a tool for probing microsecond dynamics of surface-bound fluorescent species.

PMID 15623276


In this report, a combined imaging and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) method is described and its ability to characterize microsecond fluctuations in the fluorescence emission of a sample is demonstrated. A sample scanning laser confocal microscope is operated in the customary way while recording the time that each photon is detected with a time resolution of 50 ns using a low-cost counting board. The serial data stream of photon detection times allows access to fluorescence signal fluctuations that can be used to characterize dynamics using correlation methods. The same data stream is used to generate images of the sample. Using the technique, we demonstrate that it is possible to characterize the kinetics of transitions to and from nonemitting or "dark" states of the fluorescent dyes DiIC16 and ATTO 520. Results are similar to, but deviate slightly from, a model that has been frequently used for extracting singlet-triplet: conversion rates using conventional solution-based FCS. Like conventional FCS, the concentration, or in our case the areal density of coverage, of fluorescent species can also be obtained. Many single-molecule fluorescence experiments aim to extract kinetics from intensity trajectories; this method may be used as a rapid and convenient technique for characterization of surface-linked or thin-film samples prior to performing the more time and effort intensive single-molecule measurements. Besides the capacity to measure photophysical phenomena, the surface-sensitive FCS method could also be applied for measuring conformational changes or interaction kinetics for species immobilized on a surface. One possible scenario is measurements of the frequency and duration of association of ligand-receptor pairs where a fluorescently labeled component is freely diffusing and the other is surface immobilized. Given that microarrays of custom-designed, surface-immobilized peptides and nucleic acids are now readily available, the ability to sensitively measure association and dissociation rates of the surface-linked species with a freely diffusing species could be a useful extension to what has already become an extremely important tool for characterizing the interactions of biomolecules.