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The ghosts of fluorescence

​Cell biology uses fluorescent labeling, an essential technique to follow the life of the cell. But fluorescent proteins have their limits, which researchers from IBS and I2BC @ Saclay (SB2SM) are trying to repel.

Published on 28 March 2018


Though ubiquitously used as selective fluorescence markers in cellular biology, fluorescent proteins (FPs) still have not disclosed all of their surprising properties. One important issue, notably for single-molecule applications, is the nature of the triplet state, suggested to be the starting point for many possible photochemical reactions leading to phenomena such as blinking or bleaching. Here, we applied transient absorption spectroscopy to characterize dark states in the prototypical enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) of hydrozoan origin and, for comparison, in IrisFP, a representative phototransformable FP of anthozoan origin. We identified a long-lived (approximately 5 ms) dark state that is formed with a quantum yield of approximately 1% and has pronounced absorption throughout the visible–NIR range (peak at around 900 nm).

Detection of phosphorescence emission with identical kinetics and excitation spectrum allowed unambiguous identification of this state as the first excited triplet state of the deprotonated chromophore. This triplet state was further characterized by determining its phosphorescence emission spectrum, the temperature dependence of its decay kinetics and its reactivity toward oxygen and electron acceptors and donors. It is suggested that it is this triplet state that lies at the origin of oxidative photochemistry in green FPs, leading to phenomena such as so-called "oxidative redding", "primed photoconversion", or, in a manner similar to that previously observed for organic dyes, redox induced blinking control with the reducing and oxidizing system ("ROXS").

Read the French version.

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