• fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET);
  • confocal FRET (C-FRET);
  • two-photon FRET (2p-FRET);
  • fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM);
  • CCAAT enhancer binding protein α (C/EBPα);
  • dimerization;
  • traumatic brain injury;
  • tissue FRET;
  • acceptor-photobleaching FLIM-FRET

Abstract Interacting proteins assemble into molecular machines that control cellular homeostasis in living cells. While the in vitro screening methods have the advantage of providing direct access to the genetic information encoding unknown protein partners, they do not allow direct access to interactions of these protein partners in their natural environment inside the living cell. Using wide-field, confocal, or two-photon (2p) fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) microscopy, this information can be obtained from living cells and tissues with nanometer resolution. One of the important conditions for FRET to occur is the overlap of the emission spectrum of the donor with the absorption spectrum of the acceptor. As a result of spectral overlap, the FRET signal is always contaminated by donor emission into the acceptor channel and by the excitation of acceptor molecules by the donor excitation wavelength. Mathematical algorithms are required to correct the spectral bleed-through signal in wide-field, confocal, and two-photon FRET microscopy. In contrast, spectral bleed-through is not an issue in FRET/FLIM imaging because only the donor fluorophore lifetime is measured; also, fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) measurements are independent of excitation intensity or fluorophore concentration. The combination of FRET and FLIM provides high spatial (nanometer) and temporal (nanosecond) resolution when compared to intensity-based FRET imaging. In this paper, we describe various FRET microscopy techniques and its application to protein-protein interactions.