Fluorescence microscopy is widely used to observe and quantify the inner workings of the cell. Traditionally, multiple types of cellular structures or biomolecules are visualized simultaneously in a sample by using spectrally distinct fluorescent labels. The wide emission spectra of most fluorophores limits spectral multiplexing to four or five labels in a standard fluorescence microscope. Further multiplexing requires another dimension of contrast. Here, we show that photostability differences can be used to distinguish between fluorescent labels. By combining photobleaching characteristics with a novel unmixing algorithm, we resolve up to three fluorescent labels in a single spectral channel and unmix fluorescent labels with nearly identical emission spectra. We apply our technique to organic dyes, autofluorescent biomolecules and fluorescent proteins. Our approach has the potential to triple the multiplexing capabilities of any digital widefield or confocal fluorescence microscope with no additional hardware, making it readily accessible to a wide range of researchers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics