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Journal of Biomedical Optics

Spectrally resolved fluorescence lifetime imaging of Nile red for measurements of intracellular polarity
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Paper Abstract

Spectrally resolved confocal microscopy and fluorescence lifetime imaging have been used to measure the polarity of lipid-rich regions in living HeLa cells stained with Nile red. The emission peak from the solvatochromic dye in lipid droplets is at a shorter wavelength than other, more polar, stained internal membranes, and this is indicative of a low polarity environment. We estimate that the dielectric constant, ϵ, is around 5 in lipid droplets and 25<ϵ<40 in other lipid-rich regions. Our spectrally resolved fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) data show that intracellular Nile red exhibits complex, multiexponential fluorescence decays due to emission from a short lifetime locally excited state and a longer lifetime intramolecular charge transfer state. We measure an increase in the average fluorescence lifetime of the dye with increasing emission wavelength, as shown using phasor plots of the FLIM data. We also show using these phasor plots that the shortest lifetime decay components arise from lipid droplets. Thus, fluorescence lifetime is a viable contrast parameter for distinguishing lipid droplets from other stained lipid-rich regions. Finally, we discuss the FLIM of Nile red as a method for simultaneously mapping both polarity and relative viscosity based on fluorescence lifetime measurements.

Paper Details

Date Published: 3 September 2015
PDF: 11 pages
J. Biomed. Opt. 20(9) 096002 doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.20.9.096002
Published in: Journal of Biomedical Optics Volume 20, Issue 9
Show Author Affiliations
James A. Levitt, King's College London (United Kingdom)
Pei-Hua Chung, King's College London (United Kingdom)
Klaus Suhling, King’s College London (United Kingdom)

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