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Förster Resonance Energy Transfer Investigations Using Quantum-Dot Fluorophores

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Abstract

Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), which involves the nonradiative transfer of excitation energy from an excited donor fluorophore to a proximal ground-state acceptor fluorophore, is a well-characterized photophysical tool. It is very sensitive to nanometer-scale changes in donor–acceptor separation distance and their relative dipole orientations. It has found a wide range of applications in analytical chemistry, protein conformation studies, and biological assays. Luminescent semiconductor nanocrystals (quantum dots, QDs) are inorganic fluorophores with unique optical and spectroscopic properties that could enhance FRET as an analytical tool, due to broad excitation spectra and tunable narrow and symmetric photoemission. Recently, there have been several FRET investigations using luminescent QDs that focused on addressing basic fundamental questions, as well as developing targeted applications with potential use in biology, including sensor design and protein conformation studies. Herein, we provide a critical review of those developments. We discuss some of the basic aspects of FRET applied to QDs as both donors and acceptors, and highlight some of the advantages offered (and limitations encountered) by QDs as energy donors and acceptors compared to conventional dyes. We also review the recent developments made in using QD bioreceptor conjugates to design FRET-based assays.

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