Confinement-Free Wide-Field Ratiometric Tracking of Single Fluorescent Molecules.
ABSTRACT: Single-molecule fluorescence has been highly instrumental in elucidating interactions and dynamics of biological molecules in the past two decades. Single-molecule fluorescence experiments usually rely on one of two detection geometries, either confocal point-detection or wide-field area detection, typically in a total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) format. However, each of these techniques suffers from fundamental drawbacks that limit their application. In this work, we present a new technique, solution wide-field imaging (SWiFi) of diffusing molecules, as an alternative to the existing methods. SWiFi is a simple extension to existing objective-type TIRF microscopes that allows wide-field observations of fast-diffusing molecules down to single fluorophores without the need of tethering the molecules to the surface. We demonstrate that SWiFi enables high-throughput ratiometric measurements with several thousands of individual data points per minute on double-stranded DNA standard (dsDNA) samples containing Förster resonance energy transfer pairs. We further display the capabilities of SWiFi by reporting on mobility and ratiometric characterization of fluorescent nanodiamonds, DNA Holliday junctions, and protein-DNA interactions. The ability of SWiFi for high-throughput, ratiometric measurements of fast-diffusing species renders it a valuable tool for the single-molecule research community by bridging between confocal and TIRF detection geometries in a simple and efficient way.
Project description:Fluorescence imaging is used to study the dynamics of a wide variety of single molecules in solution or attached to a surface. Two key challenges in this pursuit are (1) to image immobilized single molecules in the presence of a high level of fluorescent background and (2) to image freely diffusing single molecules for long times. Strategies that perform well by one measure often perform poorly by the other. Here, we present a simple modification to a wide-field fluorescence microscope that addresses both challenges and dramatically improves single-molecule imaging. The technique of convex lens-induced confinement (CLIC) restricts molecules to a wedge-shaped gap of nanoscale depth, formed between a plano-convex lens and a planar coverslip. The shallow depth of the imaging volume leads to 20-fold greater rejection of background fluorescence than is achieved with total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) imaging. Elimination of out-of-plane diffusion leads to an approximately 10,000-fold longer diffusion-limited observation time per molecule than is achieved with confocal fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. The CLIC system also provides a new means to determine molecular size. The CLIC system does not require any nanofabrication, nor any custom optics, electronics, or computer control.
Project description:We use alternating-laser excitation to achieve fluorescence-aided molecule sorting (FAMS) and enable simultaneous analysis of biomolecular structure and interactions at the level of single molecules. This was performed by labeling biomolecules with fluorophores that serve as donor-acceptor pairs for Förster resonance energy transfer, and by using alternating-laser excitation to excite directly both donors and acceptors present in single diffusing molecules. Emissions were reduced to the distance-dependent ratio E, and a distance-independent, stoichiometry-based ratio S. Histograms of E and S sorted species based on the conformation and association status of each species. S was sensitive to the stoichiometry and relative brightness of fluorophores in single molecules, observables that can monitor oligomerization and local-environment changes, respectively. FAMS permits equilibrium and kinetic analysis of macromolecule-ligand interactions; this was validated by measuring equilibrium and kinetic dissociation constants for the interaction of Escherichia coli catabolite activator protein with DNA. FAMS is a general platform for ratiometric measurements that report on structure, dynamics, stoichiometries, environment, and interactions of diffusing or immobilized molecules, thus enabling detailed mechanistic studies and ultrasensitive diagnostics.
Project description:A major hallmark of Alzheimer's disease is the misfolding and aggregation of the amyloid- β peptide (Aβ). While early research pointed towards large fibrillar- and plaque-like aggregates as being the most toxic species, recent evidence now implicates small soluble Aβ oligomers as being orders of magnitude more harmful. Techniques capable of characterizing oligomer stoichiometry and assembly are thus critical for a deeper understanding of the earliest stages of neurodegeneration and for rationally testing next-generation oligomer inhibitors. While the fluorescence response of extrinsic fluorescent probes such as Thioflavin-T have become workhorse tools for characterizing large Aβ aggregates in solution, it is widely accepted that these methods suffer from many important drawbacks, including an insensitivity to oligomeric species. Here, we integrate several biophysics techniques to gain new insight into oligomer formation at the single-molecule level. We showcase single-molecule stepwise photobleaching of fluorescent dye molecules as a powerful method to bypass many of the traditional limitations, and provide a step-by-step guide to implementing the technique in vitro. By collecting fluorescence emission from single Aβ(1-42) peptides labelled at the N-terminal position with HiLyte Fluor 555 via wide-field total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) imaging, we demonstrate how to characterize the number of peptides per single immobile oligomer and reveal heterogeneity within sample populations. Importantly, fluorescence emerging from Aβ oligomers cannot be easily investigated using diffraction-limited optical microscopy tools. To assay oligomer activity, we also demonstrate the implementation of another biophysical method involving the ratiometric imaging of Fura-2-AM loaded cells which quantifies the rate of oligomer-induced dysregulation of intracellular Ca<sup>2+</sup> homeostasis. We anticipate that the integrated single-molecule biophysics approaches highlighted here will develop further and in principle may be extended to the investigation of other protein aggregation systems under controlled experimental conditions.
Project description:Total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy and its variants are key technologies for visualizing the dynamics of single molecules or organelles in live cells. Yet truly quantitative TIRF remains problematic. One unknown hampering the interpretation of evanescent-wave excited fluorescence intensities is the undetermined cell refractive index (RI). Here, we use a combination of TIRF excitation and supercritical angle fluorescence emission detection to directly measure the average RI in the "footprint" region of the cell during image acquisition. Our RI measurement is based on the determination on a back-focal plane image of the critical angle separating evanescent and far-field fluorescence emission components. We validate our method by imaging mouse embryonic fibroblasts and BON cells. By targeting various dyes and fluorescent-protein chimeras to vesicles, the plasma membrane, as well as mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum, we demonstrate local RI measurements with subcellular resolution on a standard TIRF microscope, with a removable Bertrand lens as the only modification. Our technique has important applications for imaging axial vesicle dynamics and the mitochondrial energy state or detecting metabolically more active cancer cells.
Project description:The development of high resolution, high speed imaging techniques allows the study of dynamical processes in biological systems. Lateral resolution improvement of up to a factor of 2 has been achieved using structured illumination. In a total internal reflection fluorescence microscope, an evanescence excitation field is formed as light is total internally reflected at an interface between a high and a low index medium. The <100 nm penetration depth of evanescence field ensures a thin excitation region resulting in low background fluorescence. We present even higher resolution wide-field biological imaging by use of standing wave total internal reflection fluorescence (SW-TIRF). Evanescent standing wave (SW) illumination is used to generate a sinusoidal high spatial frequency fringe pattern on specimen for lateral resolution enhancement. To prevent thermal drift of the SW, novel detection and estimation of the SW phase with real-time feedback control is devised for the stabilization and control of the fringe phase. SW-TIRF is a wide-field superresolution technique with resolution better than a fifth of emission wavelength or approximately 100 nm lateral resolution. We demonstrate the performance of the SW-TIRF microscopy using one- and two-directional SW illumination with a biological sample of cellular actin cytoskeleton of mouse fibroblast cells as well as single semiconductor nanocrystal molecules. The results confirm the superior resolution of SW-TIRF in addition to the merit of a high signal/background ratio from TIRF microscopy.
Project description:The ability of zero-mode waveguides (ZMW) to guide light into subwavelength-diameter nanoapertures has been exploited for studying electron transfer dynamics in zeptoliter-volume nanopores under single-molecule occupancy conditions. In this work, we report the spectroelectrochemical detection of individual molecules of the redox-active, fluorogenic molecule flavin mononucleotide (FMN) freely diffusing in solution. Our approach is based on an array of nanopore-confined recessed dual ring electrodes, wherein repeated reduction and oxidation of a single molecule at two closely spaced annular working electrodes yields amplified electrochemical signals. We have articulated these structures with an optically transparent bottom, so that the nanopores are bifunctional, exhibiting both nanophotonic and nanoelectrochemical behaviors allowing the coupling between electron transfer and fluorescence dynamics to be studied under redox cycling conditions. We also investigated the electric field intensity in electrochemical ZMWs (E-ZMW) through finite-element simulations, and the amplification of fluorescence by redox cycling agrees well with predictions based on optical confinement effects inside the E-ZMW. Proof-of-principle experiments are conducted showing that electrochemical and fluorescence signals may be correlated to reveal single molecule fluctuations in the array population. Cross-correlation of single molecule fluctuations in amperometric response and single photon emission provides unequivocal evidence of single molecule sensitivity.
Project description:Azimuthal beam scanning makes evanescent-wave (EW) excitation isotropic, thereby producing total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) images that are evenly lit. However, beam spinning does not fundamentally address the problem of propagating excitation light that is contaminating objective-type TIRF. Far-field excitation depends more on the specific objective than on cell scattering. As a consequence, the excitation impurities in objective-type TIRF are only weakly affected by changes of azimuthal or polar beam angle. These are the main results of the first part of this study (Eliminating unwanted far-field excitation in objective-type TIRF. Pt.1. Identifying sources of nonevanescent excitation light). This second part focuses on exactly where up beam in the illumination system stray light is generated that gives rise to nonevanescent components in TIRF. Using dark-field imaging of scattered excitation light we pinpoint the objective, intermediate lenses and, particularly, the beam scanner as the major sources of stray excitation. We study how adhesion-molecule coating and astrocytes or BON cells grown on the coverslip surface modify the dark-field signal. On flat and weakly scattering cells, most background comes from stray reflections produced far from the sample plane, in the beam scanner and the objective lens. On thick, optically dense cells roughly half of the scatter is generated by the sample itself. We finally show that combining objective-type EW excitation with supercritical-angle fluorescence (SAF) detection efficiently rejects the fluorescence originating from deeper sample regions. We demonstrate that SAF improves the surface selectivity of TIRF, even at shallow penetration depths. The coplanar microscopy scheme presented here merges the benefits of beam spinning EW excitation and SAF detection and provides the conditions for quantitative wide-field imaging of fluorophore dynamics at or near the plasma membrane.
Project description:Single-molecule fluorescence detection (SMFD) experiments are useful in distinguishing sub-populations of molecular species when measuring heterogeneous samples. One experimental platform for SMFD is based on a confocal microscope, where molecules randomly traverse an effective detection volume. The non-uniformity of the excitation profile and the random nature of Brownian motion, produce fluctuating fluorescence signals. For these signals to be distinguished from the background, burst analysis is frequently used. Yet, the relation between the results of burst analyses and the underlying information of the diffusing molecules is still obscure and requires systematic assessment. In this work we performed three-dimensional Brownian motion simulations of SMFD, and tested the positions at which molecules emitted photons that passed the burst analysis criteria for different values of burst analysis parameters. The results of this work verify which of the burst analysis parameters and experimental conditions influence both the position of molecules in space when fluorescence is detected and taken into account, and whether these bursts of photons arise purely from single molecules, or not entirely. Finally, we show, as an example, the effect of bursts that are not purely from a single molecule on the accuracy in single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer measurements.
Project description:The first single-molecule fluorescence detection of a structurally-defined synthetic carbohydrate is reported: a heparan sulfate (HS) disaccharide fragment labeled with Alexa488. Single molecules have been measured whilst freely diffusing in solution and controlled encapsulation in surface-tethered lipid vesicles has allowed extended observations of carbohydrate molecules down to the single-molecule level. The diverse and dynamic nature of HS-protein interactions means that new tools to investigate pure HS fragments at the molecular level would significantly enhance our understanding of HS. This work is a proof-of-principle demonstration of the feasibility of single-molecule studies of synthetic carbohydrates which offers a new approach to the study of pure glycosaminoglycan (GAG) fragments.
Project description:We demonstrate a method of generating instantaneous and uniform total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) excitation by using an annular fiber bundle and spatially incoherent light sources. We show the flexibility of our method in that it can generate TIRF excitation with either a laser light source or an LED of different wavelengths, and facilitate switching between TIRF and epi illumination. In this report we detail the design of the fiber bundle, then demonstrate the performance via single-molecule imaging in the presence of high background and high throughput, and uniform TIRF imaging of cells over a large field of view. Our versatile method will enable quantitative shadowless TIRF imaging.