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Optimization of Advanced Live-Cell Imaging through Red/Near-Infrared Dye Labeling and Fluorescence Lifetime-Based Strategies

Authors: Magalie Bénard, Damien Schapman, Christophe Chamot, Fatéméh Dubois, Guénaëlle Levallet, Hitoshi Komuro and Ludovic Galas

Abstract: Fluorescence microscopy is essential for a detailed understanding of cellular processes; how- ever, live-cell preservation during imaging is a matter of debate. In this study, we proposed a guide to optimize advanced light microscopy approaches by reducing light exposure through fluorescence lifetime (𝓣)exploitation of red/near-infrared dyes. Firstly, we characterized key instrumental elements which revealed that red/near-infrared laser lines with an 86x (Numerical Aperture (NA) = 1.2, water immersion) objective allowed high transmission of fluorescence signals, low irradiance and super-resolution. As a combination of two technologies, i.e., vacuum tubes (e.g., photomultiplier) and semiconductor microelectronics (e.g., avalanche photodiode), type S, X and R of hybrid detectors (HyD-S, HyD-X and HyD-R) were particularly adapted for red/near-infrared photon counting and 𝓣 separation. Secondly, we tested and compared lifetime-based imaging including coarse 𝓣 separation for confocal microscopy, fitting and phasor plot analysis for fluorescence lifetime microscopy (FLIM), and lifetimes weighting for enhanced stimulated emission depletion (STED) nanoscopy, in light of red/near-infrared multiplexing. Mainly, we showed that the choice of appropriate imaging approach may depend on fluorochrome number, together with their spectral/lifetime characteristics and STED compatibility. Photon-counting mode and sensitivity of HyDs together with phasor plot analysis of fluorescence lifetimes enabled the flexible and fast imaging of multi-labeled living H28 cells. Therefore, a combination of red/near-infrared dyes labeling with lifetime-based strategies offers new perspectives for live-cell imaging by enhancing sample preservation through acquisition time and light exposure reduction.

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