Photoactivation of pa-GFP in 3D: optical tools for spatial confinement

Eur Biophys J. 2008 Sep;37(7):1219-27. doi: 10.1007/s00249-008-0317-9. Epub 2008 Apr 1.


Photoactivatable fluorescent proteins represent an innovative tool for the direct observation of time dependent macromolecular events in living systems. The possibility of switching on a selected and confined subset of the expressed target proteins allows to follow biological processes reaching high signal to noise ratios. In particular, use of non-linear interactions to bring the molecules in the activated fluorescent form make it possible to extend the advantages of photoactivation to events that requires 3D spatial localization. In this work, we show the possibility to realize confined activated volumes in living cells, by employing photoactivatable green fluorescent protein (paGFP) in two-photon microscopy. The analysis of the kinetics of two-photon paGFP activation in dependence of the wavelength, the laser intensity and the exposure time is provided. This study allowed to assess the optimal conditions to induce photoactivation in living samples and to track the behaviour of tagged histone H2B during cellular division. Furthermore we investigate paGFP photoactivation under evanescent wave illumination. Total internal reflection set-up has been used to selectively activate subresolved distribution of proteins localized in the basal membrane surroundings. These two photoactivation methods provide a suitable tool for many biological applications, combining subresolved surface and in-depth three-dimensionally confined investigations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Light
  • Microscopy
  • Optical Devices*
  • Photochemistry
  • Photons
  • Time Factors


  • Green Fluorescent Proteins