Foerster (or fluorescence) resonance energy transfer (FRET) is a powerful tool for investigating protein-protein interactions, in both living cells and in controlled environments. A typical hetero-FRET pair consists of a donor and acceptor tethered together with a linker. The corresponding energy transfer efficiency of a hetero-FRET pair probe depends upon the donor-acceptor distance, relative dipole orientation, and spectral overlap. Because of the sensitivity of the energy transfer efficiency on the donor-acceptor distance, FRET is often referred to as a “molecular ruler”. Time-resolved fluorescence approach for measuring the excited-state lifetime of the donor and acceptor emissions is one of the most reliable approaches for quantitative assessment of the energy transfer efficiency in hetero-FRET pairs. In this contribution, we provide an analytical kinetics model that describes the excited-state depopulation of a FRET probe as a means to predicts the time-resolved fluorescence profile as a function of excitation and detection wavelengths. In addition, we used this developed kinetics model to simulate the time-dependence of the excited-state population of both the donor and acceptor. These results should serve as a guide for our ongoing studies of newly developed hetero-FRET sensors (mCerulean3–linker–mCitrine) that are designed specifically for in vivo studies of macromolecular crowding. The same model is applicable to other FRET pairs with the careful consideration of their steady-state spectroscopy and the experimental design for wavelength- dependence of the fluorescence lifetime measurements.
Living cells are crowded with macromolecules and organelles. Yet, it is not fully understood how macromolecular crowding affects the myriad of biochemical reactions, transport and the structural stability of biomolecules that are essential to cellular function and survival. These molecular processes, with or without electrostatic interactions, in living cells are therefore expected to be distinct from those carried out in test tube in dilute solutions where excluded volumes are absent. Thus there is an urgent need to understand the macromolecular crowding effects on cellular and molecular biophysics towards quantitative cell biology. In this report, we investigated how biomimetic crowding affects both the rotational and translation diffusion of a small probe (rhodamine green, RhG). For biomimetic crowding agents, we used Ficoll-70 (synthetic polymer), bovine serum albumin and ovalbumin (proteins) at various concentrations in a buffer at room temperature. As a control, we carried out similar measurements on glycerolenriched buffer as an environment with homogeneous viscosity as a function of glycerol concentration. The corresponding bulk viscosity was measured independently to test the validity of the Stokes-Einstein model of a diffusing species undergoing a random walk. For rotational diffusion (ps–ns time scale), we used time-resolved anisotropy measurements to examine potential binding of RhG as a function of the crowding agents (surface structure and size). For translational diffusion (μs–s time scale), we used fluorescence correlation spectroscopy for single-molecule fluctuation analysis. Our results allow us to examine the diffusion model of a molecular probe in crowded environments as a function of concentration, length scale, homogeneous versus heterogeneous viscosity, size and surface structures. These biomimetic crowding studies, using non-invasive fluorescence spectroscopy methods, represent an important step towards understanding cellular biophysics and quantitative cell biology.
In this report, we combine total internal reflection-fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (TIR-FCS) with a single optical
trap to simultaneously manipulate and measure the dynamics of individual molecules near the substrate-solution
interface. As a proof of principle, polystyrene particles (84 nm in diameter) are used as a model system to test our
approach in studying their diffusion properties near surfaces, which are treated with polyethylene glycol 8000, bovine
serum albumin or sodium hydroxide. The evanescent field of 543 nm excitation propagates ~100 nm into the solution,
and the fluorescence detection is spatially confined by a 25 or 50 μm pinhole that is parfocal with the specimen plane.
The optical trap is generated using a cw Ti:sapphire laser at 780 nm. Our results indicate that the particles' diffusion is
influenced by surface interactions, which might have further implications on biomembrane studies. Furthermore, the
observed translational diffusion of individual particles can be manipulated using an optical trap. By combining the single
molecule sensitivity of TIR-FCS with a noninvasive manipulation method, such as optical trapping, we will be able to
probe molecular dynamics in biomimetic systems and living cells.