Testa I, Parazzoli D, Barozzi S, Garrè M, Faretta M, Diaspro A
J Microsc 230 (Pt 1) 48-60 [2008-04-00; online 2008-04-05]
Photoactivatable green fluorescent protein (paGFP) exhibits peculiar photo-physical properties making it an invaluable tool for protein/cell tracking in living cells/organisms. paGFP is normally excited in the violet range (405 nm), with an emission peak centred at 520 nm. Absorption cross-section at 488 nm is low in the not-activated form. However, when irradiated with high-energy fluxes at 405 nm, the protein shows a dramatic change in its absorption spectra becoming efficiently excitable at 488 nm. Confocal microscopes allow to control activation in the focal plane. Unfortunately, irradiation extends to the entire illumination volume, making impracticable to limit the process in the 3D (three-dimensional) space. In order to confine the process, we used two advanced intrinsically 3D confined optical methods, namely: total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) and two-photon excitation fluorescence (2PE) microscopy. TIRF allows for spatially selected excitation of fluorescent molecules within a thin region at interfaces, i.e. cellular membranes. Optimization of the TIRF optical set-up allowed us to demonstrate photoactivation of paGFP fused to different membrane localizing proteins. Exploitation of the penetration depth showed that activation is efficiently 3D confined even if limited at the interface. 2PE microscopy overcomes both the extended excitation volume of the confocal case and the TIRF constraint of operating at interfaces, providing optical confinement at any focal plane in the specimen within subfemtoliter volumes. The presented results emphasize how photoactivation by non-linear excitation can provide a tool to increase contrast in widefield and confocal cellular imaging.