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Biophys J. 1994 Aug;67(2):881-8.

Quantitation of fluorescence energy transfer between cell surface proteins via fluorescence donor photobleaching kinetics.

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Department of Chemistry, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80523.


We describe practical aspects of photobleaching fluorescence energy transfer measurements on individual living cells. The method introduced by T. M. Jovin and co-workers (see, most recently, Kubitscheck et al. 1993. Biophys. J. 64:110) is based on the reduced rate of irreversible photobleaching of donor fluorophores when acceptor fluorophores are present. Measuring differences in donor photobleaching rates on cells labeled with donor only (fluorescein isothiocyanate-conjugated proteins) and with both donor and acceptor (tetramethylrhodamine-conjugated proteins) allows calculation of the fluorescence energy transfer efficiency. We assess possible methods of data analysis in light of the underlying processes of photobleaching and energy transfer and suggest optimum strategies for this purpose. Single murine B lymphocytes binding various ratios of donor and acceptor conjugates of tetravalent concanavalin A (Con A) and divalent succinyl Con A were examined for interlectin energy transfer by these methods. For Con A, a maximum transfer efficiency of 0.49 +/- 0.02 was observed. Under similar conditions flow cytometric measurements of donor quenching yielded a value of 0.54 +/- 0.03. For succinyl Con A, the maximum transfer efficiency was 0.36. To provide concrete examples of quantities arising in such energy transfer determinations, we present examples of individual cell data and kinetic analyses, population rate constant distributions, and error estimates for the various quantities involved.

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