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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Determination of particle number and brightness using a laser scanning confocal microscope operating in the analog mode

  • Author(s): Dalal, RB
  • Digman, MA
  • Horwitz, AF
  • Vetri, V
  • Gratton, E
  • et al.

We describe a method to obtain the brightness and number of molecules at each pixel of an image stack obtained with a laser scanning microscope. The method is based on intensity fluctuations due to the diffusion of molecules in a pixel. For a detector operating in the analog mode, the variance must be proportional to the intensity. Once this constant has been calibrated, we use the ratio between the variance and the intensity to derive the particle brightness. Then, from the ratio of the intensity to the brightness we obtain the average number of particles in the pixel. We show that the method works with molecules in solution and that the results are comparable to those obtained with fluctuation correlation spectroscopy. We compare the results obtained with the detector operating in the analog and photon counting mode. Although the dynamic range of the detector operating in the photon counting mode is superior, the performance of the analog detector is acceptable under common experimental conditions. Since most commercial laser scanning microscopes operate in the analog mode, the calculation of brightness and number of particles can be applied to data obtained with these instruments, provided that the variance is proportional to the intensity. We demonstrate that the recovered brightness of mEGFP, independent of concentration, is similar whether measured in solution or in two different cell types. Furthermore, we distinguish between mobile and immobile components, and introduce a method to correct for slow variations in intensity. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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