, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 383-408

Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy and its potential for intracellular applications

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Abstract

Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) is a time-averaging fluctuation analysis of small molecular ensembles, combining maximum sensitivity with high statistical confidence. Among a multitude of physical parameters that are, in principle, accessible by FCS, it most conveniently allows to determine local concentrations, mobility coefficients, and characteristic rate constants of fast-reversible and slow-irreversible reactions of fluorescently labeled biomolecules at very low (nanomolar) concentrations, under equilibrium conditions and without physical separation. Its presently most popular instrumentation by confocal-microscope setups allows for a spatial resolution of fractions of femtoliters for the measurement volumes, containing sparse or even single molecules at any time, and encourages the adaptation of the solution-based technique for cellular applications. The scope of this review is thus, to introduce the FCS technique in particular to the reader with biological background, searching for new methods for a precise quantification of physical parameters governing cellular mechanisms and dynamics, especially if high sensitivity and fast dynamic resolution are required. After a short theoretical introduction, examples are given for the so far most important experimental applications, with respect to their implementation in cellular systems. As an interesting alternative to the confocal instrumentation, two-photon excitation will be introduced, offering a number of important advantages especially in cellular systems with high-noise and low-signal levels.