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Biophys J. 2010 Nov 3;99(9):3093-101. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.08.059.

Cross-validating FRAP and FCS to quantify the impact of photobleaching on in vivo binding estimates.

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  • 1National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Binding can now be quantified in live cells, but the accuracy of such measurements remains uncertain. To address this uncertainty, we compare fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) measurements of the binding kinetics of a transcription factor, the glucocorticoid receptor, in the nuclei of live cells. We find that the binding residence time measured by FRAP is 15 times longer than that obtained by FCS. We show that this discrepancy is not likely due to the significant differences in concentrations typically used for FRAP and FCS, nor is it likely due to spatial heterogeneity of the nucleus, improper calibration of the FCS focal volume, or the intentional FRAP photobleach. Instead, our data indicate that photobleaching of bound molecules in FCS is mainly responsible. When this effect is minimized, FRAP and FCS measurements nearly agree, although cross-validation by other approaches is now required to rule out mutual errors. Our results demonstrate the necessity of a photobleach correction for FCS measurements of GFP-tagged molecules that are bound for >0.25 s, and represent an important step forward in establishing a gold standard for in vivo binding measurements.

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