Skip to main content

Interlaced optical force-fluorescence measurements for single molecule biophysics


Brau R.R. , Tarsa P.B. , Ferrer J.M. , Lee P. , Lang M.J. . Biophysical Journal. 2006 ; 91(3). 1069-1077


PDF  Link

Combining optical tweezers with single molecule fluorescence offers a powerful technique to study the biophysical properties of single proteins and molecules. However, such integration into a combined, coincident arrangement has been severely limited by the dramatic reduction in fluorescence longevity of common dyes under simultaneous exposure to trapping and fluorescence excitation beams. We present a novel approach to overcome this problem by alternately modulating the optical trap and excitation beams to prevent simultaneous exposure of the fluorescent dye. We demonstrate the dramatic reduction of trap-induced photobleaching effects on the common single molecule fluorescence dye Cy3, which is highly susceptible to this destructive pathway. The extension in characteristic fluorophore longevity, a 20-fold improvement when compared to simultaneous exposure to both beams, prolongs the fluorescence emission to several tens of seconds in a combined, coincident arrangement. Furthermore, we show that this scheme, interlaced optical force-fluorescence, does not compromise the trap stiffness or single molecule fluorescence sensitivity at sufficiently high modulation frequencies. Such improvement permits the simultaneous measurement of the mechanical state of a system with optical tweezers and the localization of molecular changes with single molecule fluorescence, as demonstrated by mechanically unzipping a 15-basepair DNA segment labeled with Cy3.