Detecting fluorescent protein expression and co-localisation on single secretory vesicles with linear spectral unmixing

Eur Biophys J. 2006 Aug;35(6):533-47. doi: 10.1007/s00249-005-0040-8. Epub 2006 Mar 28.


Many questions in cell biology and biophysics involve the quantitation of co-localisation and the interaction of proteins tagged with different fluorophores. However, the incomplete separation of the different colour channels due to the presence of autofluorescence, along with cross-excitation and emission "bleed-through" of one colour channel into the other, all combine to render the interpretation of multi-band images ambiguous. Here we introduce a new live-cell epifluorescence spectral imaging and linear unmixing technique for classifying resolution-limited point objects containing multiple fluorophores. We demonstrate the performance of our technique by detecting, at the single-vesicle level, the co-expression of the vesicle-associated membrane protein, VAMP-2 (also called synaptobrevin-2), linked to either enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) or citrine [a less pH-sensitive variant of enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (EYFP)], in mouse cortical astrocytes. In contrast, the co-expression of VAMP-2-citrine and the lysosomal transporter sialine fused to EGFP resulted in little overlap. Spectral imaging and linear unmixing permit us to fingerprint the expression of spectrally overlapping fluorescent proteins on single secretory organelles in the presence of a spectrally broad autofluorescence. Our technique provides a robust alternative to error-prone dual- or triple colour co-localisation studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Biophysics / methods
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Luminescent Proteins / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Secretory Vesicles / chemistry*
  • Spectrum Analysis / methods
  • Vesicle-Associated Membrane Protein 2 / chemistry*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Vesicle-Associated Membrane Protein 2
  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • yellow fluorescent protein, Bacteria
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins