A big issue in fluorescence microscopy at ambient temperatures is photo-bleaching
which often hampers specific experiments. The two major mechanisms leading to irreversible bleaching of fluorescent molecules are suppressed at cryo temperatures . Transformational changes, which are often crucial steps on the way to photodecomposition of the fluorescent molecule, are reduced . The diffusion of small reactive molecules such as oxygen is arrested and thus bleaching via photo-oxidation of fluorescent molecules is suppressed as well . It has been shown that the number of photons emitted by fluorescent molecules at low temperatures can be increased up to two orders
of magnitude compared to ambient temperatures . This effect has also been shown for fluorescent proteins in vitrified cells in comparison to living cells [6, 7 and 9]. LY294002 cost On the other hand, the signal to noise ratio of fluorescence imaging at low temperatures can be dramatically reduced due to high triplet population of the fluorescent molecules [21 and 22]. A study with organic dyes reported a triplet population of 80–90% at 76 K, corresponding to a reduction of brightness of almost 10 times . In this SCH772984 order case triplet depopulation was possible by additional illumination of the molecules with an appropriate wavelength to reestablish nearly the original signal to noise ratio . Photo-switching or blinking of fluorescent proteins and organic dye molecules, an effect well studied at ambient temperatures [23••, 24 and 25], is still present at low temperatures [26, 27, 28,
29 and 30•]. Weisenburger et al. recently showed reversible photo-switching of single organic dye molecules at 4.4 K with bright and dark states lasting many seconds up to minutes [ 30• and 31]. Long-lived dark states in organic fluorophores are reached via the triplet state [ 28]. Their life-time shows almost no temperature dependency, but the lack of oxygen can substantially decelerate the recovery to Phospholipase D1 the fluorescent ground state [ 28]. Fluorescent proteins can be switched with moderate to high excitation intensities to a reversibly bleached state from which they recover to the fluorescent state spontaneously or photoinduced [ 26 and 29]. Photo-switching at low temperatures is here facilitated by photoinduced protonation rather than conformational changes (e.g. isomerization) which play a competing role at ambient temperatures [ 29]. Future studies will have to address this at the single molecule level to gain a more detailed understanding of the different pathways of reversible and irreversible photo-bleaching at low temperatures.