The bright future of single-molecule fluorescence imaging
Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
Single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (smFRET) is an essential and maturing tool to probe biomolecular interactions and conformational dynamics in vitro and, increasingly, in living cells. Multi-color smFRET enables the correlation of multiple such events and the precise dissection of their order and timing. However, the requirements for good spectral separation, high time resolution, and extended observation times place extraordinary demands on the fluorescent labels used in such experiments. Together with advanced experimental designs and data analysis, the development of long-lasting, non-fluctuating fluorophores is therefore proving key to progress in the field. Recently developed strategies for obtaining ultra-stable organic fluorophores spanning the visible spectrum are underway that will enable multi-color smFRET studies to deliver on their promise of previously unachievable biological insights.