The Spectroscopic Basis of Fluorescence Triple Correlation Spectroscopy


We have developed fluorescence triple correlation spectroscopy (F3CS) as an extension of the widely used fluorescence microscopy technique fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. F3CS correlates three signals at once and provides additional capabilities for the study of systems with complex stoichiometry, kinetic processes, and irreversible reactions. A general theory of F3CS was developed to describe the interplay of molecular dynamics and microscope optics, leading to an analytical function to predict experimental triple correlations of molecules that freely diffuse through the tight focus of the microscope. Experimental correlations were calculated from raw fluorescence data using triple correlation integrals that extend multiple-tau correlation theory to delay times in two dimensions. The quality of experimental data was improved by tuning specific spectroscopic parameters and employing multiple independent detectors to minimize optoelectronic artifacts. Experiments with the reversible system of freely diffusing 16S rRNA revealed that triple correlation functions contain symmetries predicted from time-reversal arguments. Irreversible systems are shown to break these symmetries, and correlation strategies were developed to detect time-reversal asymmetries in a comprehensive way with respect to two delay times, each spanning many orders of magnitude in time. The correlation strategies, experimental approaches, and theory developed here enable studies of the composition and dynamics of complex systems using F3CS

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