We report on the spectra and fluorescence lifetimes of four commonly used fluorophores: lissamine rhodamine (LRSC); tetramethyl rhodamine isothiocyanate (TRITC); Texas Red; and cyanine 3.18 (Cy-3). Fluorescence lifetime recordings revealed that these spectrally overlapping fluorophores can be individually detected by their lifetimes, indicating that at least four fluorophores can be individually identified in discrete tissue domains by confocal microscopy. A further advantage of lifetime recordings is that fluorophores that emit light within the same wavelength band can be used and chromatic aberrations are therefore circumvented, thereby improving the spatial accuracy in imaging of multiple fluorophores. Low and high pH, respectively, tended to influence fluorophore emission spectra and fluorescence lifetime. IgG conjugation of the fluorophores tended to shift the spectra towards longer wavelengths and to change the fluorescence lifetimes. The IgG-conjugated form of the fluorophores may, when applied to tissue specimens, change the emission spectrum and lifetime. In addition, different tissue embedding procedures may influence fluorescence lifetime. These observations emphasize the importance of spectral and lifetime characterization of fluorescent probes within the chemical context in which they will be used experimentally. Changes in spectra and fluorescence lifetimes may be a useful tool to gain information about the chemical environment of the fluorophores.
1995. Vol. 43, no 7