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J Microsc. 2003 Jul;211(Pt 1):30-6.

Time-gated total internal reflection fluorescence spectroscopy (TG-TIRFS): application to the membrane marker laurdan.

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Institut für Lasertechnologien in der Medizin und Messtechnik an der Universität Ulm, Ulm, Germany.


A novel setup for total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy with spectral and temporal (nanosecond) resolution was used to measure the emission spectra of the membrane marker laurdan either selectively within the plasma membrane or in whole living cells, depending on the incident angle of the excitation light. With increasing temperature, the intensity of the fluorescence band around 490 nm increased in comparison with the band around 440 nm, which has previously been assigned to a phase transition of membrane lipids from gel to liquid crystalline phase. For a better separation of the overlapping spectral bands, time-gated detection with a delay of 10-15 ns with respect to the exciting laser pulse was used. As a parameter of membrane dynamics the so-called generalized polarization GP = (I440 - I490)/(I440 + I490) was evaluated at temperatures between 24 and 41 degrees C and variable angles of the incident light permitting to excite laurdan molecules either within the plasma membrane or in the whole cell. A decrease of the GP values by approximately 0.2 units between 28 and 41 degrees C indicated an increase in membrane fluidity or a decrease in membrane stiffness with increasing temperature. In addition, higher GP values were observed for the plasma membrane as compared with intracellular membranes, probably due to a higher amount of cholesterol. Because properties of the plasma membrane have a large influence on the uptake or release of certain pharmaceutical agents or metabolites, the direct assessment of the dynamics of the plasma membrane by total internal reflection fluorescence spectroscopy appears to be important for pharmacology.

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