Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. II. An experimental realization

Douglas Magde, Elliot L. Elson, Watt W. Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This paper describes the first experimental application of fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, a new method for determining chemical kinetic constants and diffusion coefficients. These quantities are measured by observing the time behaviour of the tiny concentration fluctuations which occur spontaneously in the reaction system even when it is in equilibrium. The equilibrium of the system is not disturbed during the experiment. The diffusion coefficients and chemical rate constants which determine the average time behaviour of these spontaneous fluctuations are the same as those sought by more conventional methods including temperature‐jump or other perturbation techniques. The experiment consists essentially in measuring the variation with time of the number of molecules of specified reactants in a defined open volume of solution. The concentration of a reactant is measured by its fluorescence; the sample volume is defined by a focused laser beam which excites the fluorescence. The fluorescent emission fluctuates in proportion with the changes in the number of fluorescent molecules as they diffuse into and out of the sample volume and as they are created or eliminated by the chemical reactions. The number of these reactant molecules must be small to permit detection of the concentration fluctuations. Hence the sample volume is small (10−8 ml) and the concentration of the solutes is low (∼ 10−9 M). We have applied this technique to the study of two prototype systems: the simple example of pure diffusion of a single fluorescent species, rhodamine 6G, and the more interesting but more challenging example of the reaction of macromolecular DNA with the drug ethidium bromide to form a fluorescent complex. The increase of the fluorescence of the ethidium bromide upon formation of the complex permits the observation of the decay of concentration fluctuations via the chemical reaction and consequently the determination of chemical rate constants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-61
Number of pages33
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1974


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