Fluorescence lifetime can be used as a contrast mechanism to distinguish fluorophores for localization or tracking, for studying molecular interactions, binding, assembly, and aggregation, or for observing conformational changes via Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) between donor and acceptor molecules. Fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) is thus a powerful technique but its widespread use has been hampered by demanding hardware and software requirements. FLIM data is often analyzed in terms of multicomponent fluorescence lifetime decays, which requires large signals for a good signal-to-noise ratio. This confines the approach to very low frame rates and limits the number of frames which can be acquired before bleaching the sample. Recently, a computationally efficient and intuitive graphical representation, the phasor approach, has been proposed as an alternative method for FLIM data analysis at the ensemble and single-molecule level. In this article, we illustrate the advantages of combining phasor analysis with a widefield time-resolved single photon-counting detector (the H33D detector) for FLIM applications. In particular we show that phasor analysis allows real-time subsecond identification of species by their lifetimes and rapid representation of their spatial distribution, thanks to the parallel acquisition of FLIM information over a wide field of view by the H33D detector. We also discuss possible improvements of the H33D detector's performance made possible by the simplicity of phasor analysis and its relaxed timing accuracy requirements compared to standard time-correlated single-photon counting (TCSPC) methods.
|Journal of Biomedical Optics
|Published - 2012