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Biochemistry. 2005 May 10;44(18):7085-94.

Reversible photobleaching of enhanced green fluorescent proteins.

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  • 1Institut für Pharmakologie, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Thielallee 67-73, 14195 Berlin, Germany.


Color variants of green fluorescent protein (GFP) are increasingly used for multicolor imaging, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP). Here we show that experimental settings commonly used in these imaging experiments may induce an as yet uncharacterized reversible photobleaching of fluorescent proteins, which is more pronounced at acidic pH. Whereas the reversible photobleaching spectrum of eCFP corresponds to its absorption spectrum, reversible photobleaching spectra of yellow variants resemble absorption spectra of their protonated states. Fluorescence intensities recover spontaneously with time constants of 25-58 s. The recovery of eCFP can be further accelerated by illumination. The resulting steady-state fluorescence reflects a variable equilibrium between reversible photobleaching, spontaneous recovery, and light-induced recovery. These processes can cause significant artifacts in commonly applied imaging techniques, photobleach-based FRET determinations, and FRAP assays.

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