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Biophys J. 1998 Jul;75(1):557-67.

Analysis of fluorophore diffusion by continuous distributions of diffusion coefficients: application to photobleaching measurements of multicomponent and anomalous diffusion.

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Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) is widely used to measure fluorophore diffusion in artificial solutions and cellular compartments. Two new strategies to analyze FRAP data were investigated theoretically and applied to complex systems with anomalous diffusion or multiple diffusing species: 1) continuous distributions of diffusion coefficients, alpha(D), and 2) time-dependent diffusion coefficients, D(t). A regression procedure utilizing the maximum entropy method was developed to resolve alpha(D) from fluorescence recovery curves, F(t). The recovery of multi-component alpha(D) from simulated F(t) with random noise was demonstrated and limitations of the method were defined. Single narrow Gaussian alpha(D) were recovered for FRAP measurements of thin films of fluorescein and size-fractionated FITC-dextrans and Ficolls, and multi-component alpha(D) were recovered for defined fluorophore mixtures. Single Gaussian alpha(D) were also recovered for solute diffusion in viscous media containing high dextran concentrations. To identify anomalous diffusion from FRAP data, a theory was developed to compute F(t) and alpha(D) for anomalous diffusion models defined by arbitrary nonlinear mean-squared displacement <x2> versus time relations. Several characteristic alpha(D) profiles for anomalous diffusion were found, including broad alpha(D) for subdiffusion, and alpha(D) with negative amplitudes for superdiffusion. A method to deduce apparent D(t) from F(t) was also developed and shown to provide useful complementary information to alpha(D). alpha(D) and D(t) were determined from photobleaching measurements of systems with apparent anomalous subdiffusion (nonuniform solution layer) and superdiffusion (moving fluid layer). The results establish a practical strategy to characterize complex diffusive phenomena from photobleaching recovery measurements.

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