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    Fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy (FFS) refers to techniques that analyze fluctuations in the fluorescence emitted by fluorophores diffusing in a small volume and can be used to distinguish between populations of molecules that exhibit differences in brightness or diffusion. For example, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) resolves species through their diffusion by analyzing correlations in the fluorescence over time; photon counting histograms (PCH) and related methods based on moment analysis resolve species through their brightness by analyzing fluctuations in the photon counts. Here we introduce correlated photon counting histograms (cPCH), which uses both types of information to simultaneously resolve fluorescent species by their brightness and diffusion. We define the cPCH distribution by the probability to detect both a particular number of photons at the current time and another number at a later time. FCS and moment analysis are special cases of the moments of the cPCH distribution, and PCH is obtained by summing over the photon counts in either channel. cPCH is inherently a dual channel technique, and the expressions we develop apply to the dual colour case. Using simulations, we demonstrate that two species differing in both their diffusion and brightness can be better resolved with cPCH than with either FCS or PCH. Further, we show that cPCH can be extended both to longer dwell times to improve the signal-to-noise and to the analysis of images. By better exploiting the information available in fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy, cPCH will be an enabling methodology for quantitative biology.


    Nathan Scales, Peter S Swain. Resolving fluorescent species by their brightness and diffusion using correlated photon-counting histograms. PloS one. 2019;14(12):e0226063

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    PMID: 31887113

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