, Volume 236, Issue 5, pp 1653-1663
Date: 18 Jul 2012

Two-photon excitation chlorophyll fluorescence lifetime imaging: a rapid and noninvasive method for in vivo assessment of cadmium toxicity in a marine diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii

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We demonstrate that a two-photon excitation fluorescence lifetime imaging technology can rapidly and noninvasively assess the cadmium (Cd)-induced toxic effects in a marine diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii. The chlorophyll, an intrinsic fluorophore, was used as a contrast agent for imaging of cellular structures and for assessment of cell toxicity. The assessment is based on an imaging-guided statistical analysis of chlorophyll fluorescence decay. This novel label-free imaging method is physically based and free of tedious preparation and preprocessing of algal samples. We first studied the chlorophyll fluorescence quenching induced by the infrared two-photon excitation laser and found that the quenching effects on the assessment of Cd toxicity could be well controlled and calibrated. In the toxicity study, chlorophyll fluorescence lifetime images were collected from the diatom samples after exposure to different concentrations of Cd. The alteration of chloroplast structure at higher Cd concentration was clearly identified. The decay of chlorophyll fluorescence extracted from recorded pixels of high signal-to-noise ratio in the fluorescence lifetime image was analyzed. The increase of average chlorophyll fluorescence lifetime following Cd treatment was observed, indicating the Cd inhibition effect on the electron transport chain in photosynthesis system. The findings of this study show that the temporal characteristics of chlorophyll fluorescence can potentially be utilized as a biomarker for indicating Cd toxicity noninvasively in algal cells.