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Excited-state annihilation reduces power dependence of single-molecule FRET experiments


Nettels, Daniel; Haenni, Dominik; Maillot, Sacha; Gueye, Moussa; Barth, Anders; Hirschfeld, Verena; Hübner, Christian G; Léonard, Jérémie; Schuler, Benjamin (2015). Excited-state annihilation reduces power dependence of single-molecule FRET experiments. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (PCCP), 17(48):32304-32315.

Abstract

Single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) experiments are an important method for probing biomolecular structure and dynamics. The results from such experiments appear to be surprisingly independent of the excitation power used, in contradiction to the simple photophysical mechanism usually invoked for FRET. Here we show that excited-state annihilation processes are an essential cause of this behavior. Singlet-singlet annihilation (SSA) is a mechanism of fluorescence quenching induced by Förster-type energy transfer between two fluorophores while they are both in their first excited singlet states (S1S1), which is usually neglected in the interpretation of FRET experiments. However, this approximation is only justified in the limit of low excitation rates. We demonstrate that SSA is evident in fluorescence correlation measurements for the commonly used FRET pair Alexa 488/Alexa 594, with a rate comparable to the rate of energy transfer between the donor excited state and the acceptor ground state (S1S0) that is exploited in FRET experiments. Transient absorption spectroscopy shows that SSA occurs exclusively via energy transfer from Alexa 488 to Alexa 594. Excitation-power dependent microsecond correlation experiments support the conclusion based on previously reported absorption spectra of triplet states that singlet-triplet annihilation (STA) analogously mediates energy transfer if the acceptor is in the triplet state. The results indicate that both SSA and STA have a pronounced effect on the overall FRET process and reduce the power dependence of the observed FRET efficiencies. The existence of annihilation processes thus seems to be essential for using FRET as a reliable spectroscopic ruler at the high excitation rates commonly employed in single-molecule spectroscopy.

Abstract

Single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) experiments are an important method for probing biomolecular structure and dynamics. The results from such experiments appear to be surprisingly independent of the excitation power used, in contradiction to the simple photophysical mechanism usually invoked for FRET. Here we show that excited-state annihilation processes are an essential cause of this behavior. Singlet-singlet annihilation (SSA) is a mechanism of fluorescence quenching induced by Förster-type energy transfer between two fluorophores while they are both in their first excited singlet states (S1S1), which is usually neglected in the interpretation of FRET experiments. However, this approximation is only justified in the limit of low excitation rates. We demonstrate that SSA is evident in fluorescence correlation measurements for the commonly used FRET pair Alexa 488/Alexa 594, with a rate comparable to the rate of energy transfer between the donor excited state and the acceptor ground state (S1S0) that is exploited in FRET experiments. Transient absorption spectroscopy shows that SSA occurs exclusively via energy transfer from Alexa 488 to Alexa 594. Excitation-power dependent microsecond correlation experiments support the conclusion based on previously reported absorption spectra of triplet states that singlet-triplet annihilation (STA) analogously mediates energy transfer if the acceptor is in the triplet state. The results indicate that both SSA and STA have a pronounced effect on the overall FRET process and reduce the power dependence of the observed FRET efficiencies. The existence of annihilation processes thus seems to be essential for using FRET as a reliable spectroscopic ruler at the high excitation rates commonly employed in single-molecule spectroscopy.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Biochemistry
07 Faculty of Science > Department of Biochemistry
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2 December 2015
Deposited On:12 Jan 2016 14:45
Last Modified:29 Apr 2016 07:33
Publisher:Royal Society of Chemistry
ISSN:1463-9076
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1039/c5cp05321h
PubMed ID:26584062

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