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Extracting the time scales of conformational dynamics from single-molecule single-photon fluorescence statistics

Shang, J.; Geva, E.

Journal of Physical Chemistry. B 111(16): 4220-4226

2007

The quenching rate of a fluorophore attached to a macromolecule can be rather sensitive to its conformational state. The decay of the corresponding fluorescence lifetime autocorrelation function can therefore provide unique information on the time scales of conformational dynamics. The conventional way of measuring the fluorescence lifetime autocorrelation function involves evaluating it from the distribution of delay times between photoexcitation and photon emission. However, the time resolution of this procedure is limited by the time window required for collecting enough photons in order to establish this distribution with sufficient signal-to-noise ratio. Yang and Xie have recently proposed an approach for improving the time resolution, which is based on the argument that the autocorrelation function of the delay time between photoexcitation and photon emission is proportional to the autocorrelation function of the square of the fluorescence lifetime [Yang, H.; Xie, X. S. J. Chem. Phys. 2002, 117, 10965]. In this paper, we show that the delay-time autocorrelation function is equal to the autocorrelation function of the square of the fluorescence lifetime divided by the autocorrelation function of the fluorescence lifetime. We examine the conditions under which the delay-time autocorrelation function is approximately proportional to the autocorrelation function of the square of the fluorescence lifetime. We also investigate the correlation between the decay of the delay-time autocorrelation function and the time scales of conformational dynamics. The results are demonstrated via applications to a two-state model and an off-lattice model of a polypeptide.

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