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Spectrally Resolved and Functional Super-resolution Microscopy via Ultrahigh-Throughput Single-Molecule Spectroscopy.

Acc Chem Res. 2018 Feb 14;:

Authors: Yan R, Moon S, Kenny SJ, Xu K

As an elegant integration of the spatial and temporal dimensions of single-molecule fluorescence, single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM) overcomes the diffraction-limited resolution barrier of optical microscopy by localizing single molecules that stochastically switch between fluorescent and dark states over time. While this type of super-resolution microscopy (SRM) technique readily achieves remarkable spatial resolutions of ∼10 nm, it typically provides no spectral information. Meanwhile, current scanning-based single-location approaches for mapping the positions and spectra of single molecules are limited by low throughput and are difficult to apply to densely labeled (bio)samples. In this Account, we summarize the rationale, design, and results of our recent efforts toward the integration of the spectral dimension of single-molecule fluorescence with SMLM to achieve spectrally resolved SMLM (SR-SMLM) and functional SRM (f-SRM). By developing a wide-field scheme for spectral measurement and implementing single-molecule fluorescence on-off switching typical of SMLM, we first showed that in densely labeled (bio)samples it is possible to record the fluorescence spectra and positions of millions of single molecules synchronously within minutes, giving rise to ultrahigh-throughput single-molecule spectroscopy and SR-SMLM. This allowed us to first show statistically that for many dyes, single molecules of the same species exhibit near identical emission in fixed cells. This narrow distribution of emission wavelengths, which contrasts markedly with previous results at solid surfaces, allowed us to unambiguously identify single molecules of spectrally similar dyes. Crosstalk-free, multiplexed SRM was thus achieved for four dyes that were merely 10 nm apart in emission spectrum, with the three-dimensional SRM images of all four dyes being automatically aligned within one image channel. The ability to incorporate single-molecule fluorescence measurement with SMLM was next utilized to achieve f-SRM. By encoding functional information into the spectral responses of environment-sensing fluorescent probes, f-SRM transcends the structural information provided by typical SRM techniques and reveals the spatiotemporal distribution of physicochemical parameters with single-molecule sensitivity and nanoscale spatial resolution. As one example, by employing the solvatochromic dye Nile Red to sense local chemical polarity, we revealed nanoscale heterogeneity in the membranes of live mammalian cells. This enabled us to unveil substantial polarity differences between the plasma membrane and the membranes of nanoscale intracellular organelles, a result we determined to be due to differences in local cholesterol levels. With the addition of cholesterol or cholera toxin, we further observed the formation of low-polarity, raftlike nanodomains in the plasma membrane. In another study, we generalized SR-SMLM to fluorogenic single-molecule reactions. As a wide-field technique, SR-SMLM readily captures the emission spectra of individual product fluorescent molecules that are stochastically produced from nonfluorescent reactants at random locations over large sample areas, and therefore, it provides the unique possibility to spectrally identify and characterize single product molecules in a high-throughput fashion. Using the ring-opening reaction of a photochromic spiropyran as an example, we demonstrated that the capability to resolve the emission spectra of single product molecules could unveil rich, multipath reaction pathways. In summary, by integrating the spatial, temporal, and spectral dimensions of single-molecule fluorescence, SR-SMLM and f-SRM add rich spectral and functional dimensions to SRM and thus open up new ways of probing biological and chemical systems at the single-molecule and nanoscale levels.

PMID: 29443498 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]