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Keywords:

  • fluorescence;
  • modulated excitation;
  • photobleaching;
  • saturated excitation microscopy;
  • super-resolution imaging

Abstract

Saturated excitation (SAX) microscopy utilizes the nonlinear relation between fluorescence emission and excitation under saturated excitation to improve the spatial resolution of confocal microscopy. In this study, we theoretically and experimentally investigate the saturation of fluorescence excitation under modulated excitation to optimize the excitation conditions for SAX microscopy. Calculation of the relationships between fluorescence and excitation intensity with different modulation frequencies reveals that the lifetime of the triplet state of the fluorescent probe strongly affects the strength of the demodulated fluorescence signals. We also find that photobleaching shows little dependence on the modulation frequency. These investigations allow us to determine the optimum excitation conditions, that is, the conditions providing sufficient fluorescence saturation without strong photobleaching. For a sample stained with ATTO Rho6G phalloidin, we estimate the optimal excitation conditions, which are produced with 50 kHz excitation modulation and a 50 μsec pixel dwell time, and successfully perform three-dimensional imaging with sub-diffraction resolution.