Experimental and Model Investigations of Bleaching and Saturation of Fluorescence in Flow Cytometry

Richard M.P. Doornbos, R.M.P. Doornbos, B.G. de Grooth, Jan Greve

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    We investigated the fluorescence emission from three fluorophores commonly used for labeling cells in flow cytometry. We have demonstrated that the fluorescence emission from cells labeled with fluorescein-isothiocyanate (FITC), phycoerythrin (PE), and allophycocyanin (APC) is considerably saturated and bleached in standard flow cytometric conditions. Therefore, for optimization of fluorescence detection in a flow cytometer, it is important to know the emission kinetics in detail. We made a mathematical model of the optical processes involved: absorption, fluorescence emission, nonradiative decay, photodestruction, and triplet state occupation. The validity of the model was experimentally tested with a set of averaged fluorescence pulses, measured in a large range of intensities and illumination times. The fluorescence of APC could be completely described by the model and produced the following rate constants: photodestruction rate kb1 = 6 · 103 s-1, triplet state population rate k12 = 2 · 105 s-1, and depopulation rate k20 = 5 · 104 s-1. The fluorescence kinetics of FITC- and PE-labeled cells could not be fitted with only three parameters over the entire range, indicating that other optical processes are involved. We used the model to determine the sensitivity of our flow cytometer and to calculate the optimum conditions for the detection of APC. The results show that in principle a single APC molecule on a cell can be detected in the presence of background, i.e., autofluorescence and Raman scattering by water.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)204-214
    Number of pages11
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1997


    • IR-60730
    • Flow cytometry
    • allophycocyanin
    • Single-molecule detection
    • Quantification
    • METIS-129331
    • phycoerythrin
    • photobleaching
    • triplet state
    • photodestruction
    • fluorescein

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