Förster resonant energy transfer (FRET) is extensively used to probe macromolecular interactions and conformation changes. The established FRET lifetime analysis method measures the FRET process through its effect on the donor lifetime. In this paper we present a method that directly probes the time-resolved FRET signal with frequency domain Fourier lifetime excitation-emission matrix (FLEEM) measurements. FLEEM separates fluorescent signals by their different phonon energy pathways from excitation to emission. The FRET process generates a unique signal channel that is initiated by donor excitation but ends with acceptor emission. Time-resolved analysis of the FRET EEM channel allows direct measurements on the FRET process, unaffected by free fluorophores that might be present in the sample. Together with timeresolved analysis on non-FRET channels, i.e. donor and acceptor EEM channels, time resolved EEM analysis allows precise quantification of FRET in the presence of free fluorophores. The method is extended to three-color FRET processes, where quantification with traditional methods remains challenging because of the significantly increased complexity in the three-way FRET interactions. We demonstrate the time-resolved EEM analysis method with quantification of three-color FRET in incompletely hybridized triple-labeled DNA oligonucleotides. Quantitative measurements of the three-color FRET process in triple-labeled dsDNA are obtained in the presence of free single-labeled ssDNA and double-labeled dsDNA. The results establish a quantification method for studying multicolor FRET between multiple macromolecules in biochemical equilibrium.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics