Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) extracts information about molecular dynamics from the tiny fluctuations that can be observed in the emission of small ensembles of fluorescent molecules in thermodynamic equilibrium. Employing a confocal setup in conjunction with highly dilute samples, the average number of fluorescent particles simultaneously within the measurement volume (∼1fl) is minimized. Among the multitude of chemical and physical parameters accessible by FCS are local concentrations, mobility coefficients, rate constants for association and dissociation processes, and even enzyme kinetics. As any reaction causing an alteration of the primary measurement parameters such as fluorescence brightness or mobility can be monitored, the application of this noninvasive method to unravel processes in living cells is straightforward. Due to the high spatial resolution of less than 0.5μm, selective measurements in cellular compartments, e.g., to probe receptor-ligand interactions on cell membranes, are feasible. Moreover, the observation of local molecular dynamics provides access to environmental parameters such as local oxygen concentrations, pH, or viscosity. Thus, this versatile technique is of particular attractiveness for researchers striving for quantitative assessment of interactions and dynamics of small molecular quantities in biologically relevant systems. © 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
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