Make them blink: probes for super-resolution microscopy

Chemphyschem. 2010 Aug 23;11(12):2475-90. doi: 10.1002/cphc.201000189.


In recent years, a number of approaches have emerged that enable far-field fluorescence imaging beyond the diffraction limit of light, namely super-resolution microscopy. These techniques are beginning to profoundly alter our abilities to look at biological structures and dynamics and are bound to spread into conventional biological laboratories. Nowadays these approaches can be divided into two categories, one based on targeted switching and readout, and the other based on stochastic switching and readout of the fluorescence information. The main prerequisite for a successful implementation of both categories is the ability to prepare the fluorescent emitters in two distinct states, a bright and a dark state. Herein, we provide an overview of recent developments in super-resolution microscopy techniques and outline the special requirements for the fluorescent probes used. In combination with the advances in understanding the photophysics and photochemistry of single fluorophores, we demonstrate how essentially any single-molecule compatible fluorophore can be used for super-resolution microscopy. We present examples for super-resolution microscopy with standard organic fluorophores, discuss factors that influence resolution and present approaches for calibration samples for super-resolution microscopes including AFM-based single-molecule assembly and DNA origami.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*


  • Fluorescent Dyes