Circumvention of Fluorophore Photobleaching in Fluorescence Fluctuation Experiments: a Beam Scanning Approach
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Photobleaching is a fluorophore-damaging process that commonly afflicts single-molecule fluorescence studies. It becomes an especially severe problem in fluorescence fluctuation experiments when studying slowly diffusing particles. One way to circumvent this problem is to use beam scanning to decrease the residence time of the fluorophores in the excitation volume. We report a systematic study of the effects of circular beam scanning on the photobleaching of fluorescent particles as observed in single-photon excitation fluorescence fluctuation experiments. We start by deriving a simple expression relating the average detected fluorescence to the photobleaching cross section of the fluorophores. We then perform numerical calculations of the spatial distribution of fluorescent particles in order to understand under which conditions beam scanning can prevent the formation of a photobleaching hole. To support these predictions, we show experimental results obtained for large unilamellar vesicles containing a small amount of the fluorescent lipophilic tracer DiD. We establish the required scanning radius and frequency range in order to obtain sufficient reduction of the photobleaching effect for that system. From the detected increase in fluorescence upon increase in scanning speed, we estimate the photobleaching cross section of DiD.
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