We present a theoretical technique for quantifying the cellular copy-number of fluorophores that relies on the random nature of the photobleaching process. Our approach does not require single-molecule sensitivity, and therefore can be used with commonly used epifluorescence microscopes. Fluctuations arising from photobleaching can be used to estimate the proportionality between fluorescence intensity and copy-number, which can then be used with subsequent intensity measurements to estimate copy-number. We calculate the statistical errors of our approach and verify them with stochastic simulations. By using fluctuations over the entire photobleaching process, we obtain significantly smaller errors than previous approaches that have used fluctuations arising from cytoplasmic proteins partitioning during cellular division. From the time-dependence of the fluctuations as photobleaching proceeds, we can discriminate between desired photobleach fluctuations and background noise or photon shot noise. Our approach does not require cellular division and the photobleaching rate sets a timescale that is adjustable with respect to cellular processes. We hope that our approach will now be applied experimentally. © 2011 Biophysical Society.
Nayak, C. R., & Rutenberg, A. D. (2011). Quantification of fluorophore copy number from intrinsic fluctuations during fluorescence photobleaching. Biophysical Journal, 101(9), 2284–2293. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2011.09.032