Fluorescent probes for super-resolution imaging in living cells

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2008 Dec;9(12):929-43. doi: 10.1038/nrm2531. Epub 2008 Nov 12.


In 1873, Ernst Abbe discovered that features closer than approximately 200 nm cannot be resolved by lens-based light microscopy. In recent years, however, several new far-field super-resolution imaging techniques have broken this diffraction limit, producing, for example, video-rate movies of synaptic vesicles in living neurons with 62 nm spatial resolution. Current research is focused on further improving spatial resolution in an effort to reach the goal of video-rate imaging of live cells with molecular (1-5 nm) resolution. Here, we describe the contributions of fluorescent probes to far-field super-resolution imaging, focusing on fluorescent proteins and organic small-molecule fluorophores. We describe the features of existing super-resolution fluorophores and highlight areas of importance for future research and development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbocyanines / metabolism
  • Cells / metabolism*
  • Coloring Agents / metabolism
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Luminescent Agents / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*


  • Carbocyanines
  • Coloring Agents
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Luminescent Agents
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins