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Photochem Photobiol. 1996 Mar;63(3):265-71.

Reversible photobleaching of fluorescein conjugates in air-saturated viscous solutions: singlet and triplet state quenching by tryptophan.

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Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0521, USA.


Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) measurements on air-saturated aqueous solutions of fluorescein made viscous with glycerol or sucrose revealed a rapid component of fluorescence recovery with exponential time constants of 30-120 microseconds at viscosities of 15-300 cP. The rapid recovery process was not related to fluorophore translational diffusion and was insensitive to fluorophore concentration and the additive used to increase solution viscosity. At constant viscosity, the rate of reversible photobleaching recovery increased 2.5-fold in an O2- vs N2-saturated solution. The relative efficiency of reversible-to-irreversible photobleaching decreased with increasing photobleaching time and/or beam intensity. Reversible photobleaching was also detected for conjugates of fluorescein with dextrans and proteins in viscous media. In screening triplet state quenchers that might influence the reversible recovery, it was found that tryptophan enhanced the rate of reversible photobleaching recovery (two-fold increase at 8 mM) and quenched the fluorescein singlet state (Stern-Volmer constant, 12 M-1). Analysis of fluorescein lifetimes and photobleaching parameters for a series of fluorescein-labeled proteins with different numbers of tryptophans were also carried out. The results provide evidence for an oxygen-dependent, reversible photobleaching mechanism for the fluorescein chromophore involving triplet state relaxation. The identification of reversible fluorescein photobleaching has important implications for FRAP measurements of rapid solute diffusion in biological systems.

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