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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Biosensor Förster resonance energy transfer detection by the phasor approach to fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy.

  • Author(s): Hinde, Elizabeth
  • Digman, Michelle A
  • Welch, Christopher
  • Hahn, Klaus M
  • Gratton, Enrico
  • et al.

We present here the phasor approach to biosensor Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) detection by fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) and show that this method of data representation is robust towards biosensor design as well as the fluorescence artifacts inherent to the cellular environment. We demonstrate this property on a series of dual and single chain biosensors, which report the localization of Rac1 and RhoA activity, whilst performing concomitant ratiometric FRET analysis on the acquired FLIM data by the generalized polarization (GP) approach. We then evaluate and compare the ability of these two methods to quantitatively image biosensor FRET signal as a function of time and space. We find that with lifetime analysis in the phasor plot each molecular species is transformed into a two-dimensional coordinate system where independent mixtures of fluorophores can be distinguished from changes in lifetime due to FRET. This enables the fractional contribution of the free and bound state of a dual chain biosensor or the low and high FRET species of a single chain biosensor to be quantified in each pixel of an image. The physical properties intrinsic to each biosensor design are also accurately characterized by the phasor analysis; thus, this method could be used to inform biosensor optimization at the developmental stage. We believe that as biosensors become more sophisticated and are multiplexed with other fluorescent molecular tools, biosensor FRET detection by the phasor approach to FLIM will not only become imperative to their use but also their advancement.

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