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Analysis of fluorescence decay kinetics from variable-frequency phase shift and modulation data.


Recently it has become possible to measure fluorescence phase-shift and modulation data over a wide range of modulation frequencies. In this paper we describe the analysis of these data by the method of nonlinear least squares to determine the values of the lifetimes and fractional intensities for a mixture of exponentially decaying fluorophores. Analyzing simulated data allowed us to determine those experimental factors that are most critical for successfully resolving the emissions from mixtures of fluorophores. The most critical factors are the accuracy of the experimental data, the relative difference of the individual decay times, and the inclusion of data measured at multiple emission wavelengths. After measuring at eight widely spaced modulation frequencies, additional measurements yielded only a modest increase in resolution. In particular, the uncertainty in the parameters decreased approximately as the reciprocal of the square root of the number of modulation frequencies. Our simulations showed that with presently available precision and data for one emission bandpass, two decay times could be accurately determined if their ratio were greater than or equal to 1.4. Three exponential decays could also be resolved, but only if the range of the lifetimes were fivefold or greater. To reliably determine closely-spaced decay times, the data were measured at multiple emission wavelengths so that the fractional intensities of the components could be varied. Also, independent knowledge of any of the parameters substantially increased the accuracy with which the remaining parameters could be determined. In the subsequent paper we present experimental results that broadly confirm the predicted resolving potential of variable-frequency phase-modulation fluorometry.

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