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Biophys J. 2000 Apr;78(4):2159-62.

Photobleaching in two-photon excitation microscopy.

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Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37232-0615, USA.


The intensity-squared dependence of two-photon excitation in laser scanning microscopy restricts excitation to the focal plane and leads to decreased photobleaching in thick samples. However, the high photon flux used in these experiments can potentially lead to higher-order photon interactions within the focal volume. The excitation power dependence of the fluorescence intensity and the photobleaching rate of thin fluorescence samples ( approximately 1 microm) were examined under one- and two-photon excitation. As expected, log-log plots of excitation power versus the fluorescence intensity and photobleaching rate for one-photon excitation of fluorescein increased with a slope of approximately 1. A similar plot of the fluorescence intensity versus two-photon excitation power increased with a slope of approximately 2. However, the two-photon photobleaching rate increased with a slope > or =3, indicating the presence of higher-order photon interactions. Similar experiments on Indo-1, NADH, and aminocoumarin produced similar results and suggest that this higher-order photobleaching is common in two-photon excitation microscopy. As a consequence, the use of multi-photon excitation microscopy to study thin samples may be limited by increased photobleaching.

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