Ruhlandt D, Andresen M, Jensen N, Gregor I, Jakobs S, Enderlein J, Chizhik AI
Commun Biol. 2020 Oct 30;3(1):627.
One of the key photophysical properties of fluorescent proteins that is most difficult to measure is the quantum yield. It describes how efficiently a fluorophore converts absorbed light into fluorescence. Its measurement using conventional methods become particularly problematic when it is unknown how many of the proposedly fluorescent molecules of a sample are indeed fluorescent (for example due to incomplete maturation, or the presence of photophysical dark states). Here, we use a plasmonic nanocavity-based method to measure absolute quantum yield values of commonly used fluorescent proteins. The method is calibration-free, does not require knowledge about maturation or potential dark states, and works on minute amounts of sample. The insensitivity of the nanocavity-based method to the presence of non-luminescent species allowed us to measure precisely the quantum yield of photo-switchable proteins in their on-state and to analyze the origin of the residual fluorescence of protein ensembles switched to the dark state.