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FRET-Modulated Multihybrid Nanoparticles for Brightness-Equalized Single-Wavelength Barcoding

Chen, Chi, Corry, Ben, Huang, Liang, Hildebrandt, Niko
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2019 v.141 no.28 pp. 11123-11141
Monte Carlo method, dimerization, energy transfer, fluorescence, fluorescence microscopes, fluorescence microscopy, fluorescent dyes, image analysis, microbeads, nanoparticles, photoluminescence, quantum dots, spectroscopy, terbium
Semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) are the most versatile fluorophores for Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) because they can function as both donors and acceptors for a multitude of fluorophores. However, a complete understanding of multidonor–multiacceptor FRET networks on QDs and their full employment into advanced fluorescence sensing and imaging have not been accomplished. Here, we provide a holistic photophysical analysis of such multidonor-QD-multiacceptor FRET systems using time-resolved and steady-state photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy and Monte Carlo simulations. Multiple terbium complex (Tb) donors (1–191 units) and Cy5.5 dye acceptors (1–60 units) were attached to a central QD, and the entire range of combinations of FRET pathways was investigated by Tb, QD, and Cy5.5 PL. Experimental and simulation results were in excellent agreement and could disentangle the distinct contributions of hetero-FRET, homo-FRET, and dye dimerization. The FRET efficiency was independent of the number of Tb donors and dependent on the number of Cy5.5 acceptors, which could be used to independently adapt the PL intensity by the number of Tb donors and the PL lifetime by the number of Cy5.5 acceptors. We used this unique tuning capability to prepare Tb-QD-Cy5.5 conjugates with distinct QD PL lifetimes but similar QD PL intensities. These brightness-equalized multihybrid FRET nanoparticles were applied to optical barcoding via three time-gated PL intensity detection windows, which resulted in simple RGB ratios. Direct applicability was demonstrated by an efficient RGB distinction of different nanoparticle-encoded microbeads within the same field of view with both single-wavelength excitation and detection on a standard fluorescence microscope.