Fluorescence lifetime and anisotropy measurements were made on the red fluorescent protein (DsRed) from tropical coral of the Discosoma genus, both at single-molecule and bulk concentrations. As expected from previous work, the fluorescence lifetime of DsRed in solution is dependent on laser power, decreasing from an average fluorescence lifetime in the beam of about 3.3 ns at low power (3.5 ns if one extrapolates to zero power) to about 2.1 ns at 28 kW/cm2. At the single-molecule level, exciting with 532 nm, 10 ps laser pulses at 80 MHz repetition rate, DsRed particles entering the laser beam initially have a lifetime of about 3.6 ns and convert to a form having a lifetime of about 3.0 ns with a quantum yield of photoconversion on the order of 10−3 (calculated in terms of photons per DsRed tetramer). The particles then undergo additional photoconversion with a quantum yield of roughly 10−5, generating a form with an average lifetime of 1.6 ns. These results may be explained by rapid photoconversion of one DsRed monomer in a tetramer, which acts as an energy transfer sink, resulting in a lower quantum yield for photoconversion of subsequent monomers. Multiparameter correlation and selective averaging can be used to identify DsRed in a mixture of fluorophores, in part exploiting the fact that fluorescent lifetime of DsRed changes as a function of excitation intensity.
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Vol. 77 • No. 4