MPE Tutorial Multiphoton Excitation Microscopy 5100 Patrick Henry Drive

MPE Tutorial Multiphoton Excitation Microscopy 5100 Patrick Henry Drive
Multiphoton Excitation Microscopy
MPE Tutorial
5100 Patrick Henry Drive
Santa Clara, CA 95054
Copyright 2000 Coherent, Inc.
MC-SC14-2000-3M0500
Fluorophore
Bis MSB
Bodipy
Cascade Blue
Coumarin 307
DAPI
Dansyl Hydrazine
Wavelength (nm)
690
920
750
775
700
700
Fluorophore
DiI
Fluorescein
Indo-1
Lucifer Yellow
Rhodamine B
Wavelength (nm)
700
780
700
860
840
Table 1. Two-photon absorption wavelengths.
Intensity
The power (flux) per unit solid angle of a laser beam.
Introduction
Multiphoton excitation (MPE) microscopy is a powerful tool
that combines scanning microscopy with multiphoton fluorescence
to create high-resolution, three-dimensional images of microscopic
samples. MPE is particularly useful in biology because it can be
used to probe delicate living cells and tissues without damaging
the sample. Although multiphoton excitation has been
demonstrated with high-power cw argon and krypton lasers, the
laser source of choice for MPE microscopy is an ultrafast
Ti:Sapphire laser.
Advantages of Multiphoton Excitation Microscopy
Advantages of Multiphoton Excitation Microscopy
Kerr lens effect
When an optical medium is placed in a strong electrical field, the index of refraction
changes. This is known as the Kerr effect. Light is an electromagnetic wave. When a
focused Gaussian laser beam passes through a Ti:Sapphire crystal, the electric field
generated by the beam causes a nonhomogeneous change in the index of refraction,
creating a weak lens that, along with the geometry of the laser cavity, results in higher
gain for modelocked pulses than for cw pulses.
Modelocking
When compared to conventional confocal microscopy, MPE
microscopy has many advantages:
• higher axial resolution
• greater sample penetration
• reduced photobleaching of marker dyes
• increased cell viability
Organization of This Tutorial
The ability to generate a train of very short pulses by modulating the gain or excitation
of a laser at a frequency with a period equal to the round-trip time of a photon in the
laser cavity (frequency = c/2nL). The resulting pulsewidth depends upon the gain
bandwidth of the laser medium (the larger the bandwidth, the narrower the pulse), the
accuracy of the frequency setting, and the stability of the laser cavity. Ti:Sapphire lasers
like the Mira and Vitesse are self-modelocked using the Kerr Lens Effect to generate
modelocked pulses with output pulsewidths in the 50 fs to 150 fs regime.
Optical sectioning
The ability to obtain an image of a planar layer of a sample at various points within
the sample. A section can be either horizontal (x-y) or vertical (x-z), or a combination
thereof. Optical sectioning is a major strength of scanning MPE microscopy, due to its
ability to penetrate deeper into a sample, and the enhanced contrast brought about by
fluorescing only at the focal point of the laser probe.
The first section of this tutorial, Theory, will discuss the basic
theory and concepts of multiphoton fluorescence and confocal
microscopy. These two concepts will then be brought together in a
discussion of MPE.
In the second section, Experimental Set-ups, the equipment
needed for a typical application will be described, along with
useful information on procedures and protocols.
The third section, Glossary, will provide definitions and
descriptions of words and concepts common to MPE experiments.
Photodamage
Damage to a sample caused by exposing it to intense light. Damage can be caused by
heat, ablation, bleaching, or the creation of singlet oxygen. For most biological samples,
infrared light is less destructive than visible or ultraviolet light. Using a low-duty-cycle
modelocked laser can minimize or eliminate heat damage.
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Autocorrelators are available from several sources, for example, APE
in Berlin, Germany. All models provide pulsewidth data, and some
models also provide wavelength information. The main drawback of
these devices is their cost.
A less expensive alternative is a commercial (Rees) spectrometer with
additional computer software provided by Coherent. In this case, the
bandwidth of the pulse can be displayed on a standard personal
computer. The pulsewidth is approximated, based on the bandwidth.
These devices are less accurate than an autocorrelator (~+10%) but are
fine for MPE applications. They also provide wavelength data and can be
used to monitor for cw breakthrough.
Theory
Multiphoton excitation microscopy is an amalgamation of
multiphoton fluorescence and confocal scanning microscopy. To fully
understand MPE microscopy, it is important to have a basic
understanding of these two techniques.
Multiphoton Fluorescence
Measuring Average Power
Coherent offers a variety of power and energy meters suitable for
measuring the average output power of an ultrafast system. Coherent’s
LaserMate™ and LabMaster™ power meters, with appropriate detectors,
are particularly well-suited.
Measuring Peak Power
Unfortunately, conventional power and energy meters cannot measure
the peak powers of ultrafast systems directly, because the pulse repetition
rate (~80 MHz) and the pulsewidth (<100 fsec) are beyond the
bandwidth and resolution limits of the instruments. Consequently, the
peak power must be determined by first determining the pulsewidth and
repetition rate of the system, and then calculating the peak power by the
formula
Ppeak = Pavg/(f × τ)
where f is the pulse repetition rate and τ is the pulsewidth. The pulse
repetition rate is fixed by the laser geometry, which can be found in the
laser specification table. The pulsewidth is best determined by using an
autocorrelator.
Photon Formulae
E = hν
νλ = c
λ = hc/E,
where
λ = wavelength
ν = frequency
E = energy
C = speed of light
h = Planck’s constant
In traditional fluorescence
spectroscopy, a single photon of
light is used to excite a molecule
from its ground state (S0) to an
upper energy state (S1(n)), as
λ
shown in Figure 1. Once excited,
the molecule then decays to an
intermediate energy state (S0(n)),
giving off a photon of light
(fluorescence) that is
representative of the difference in
energy between those states. The
relationships between photon
Figure 1. Simplified three-level
energy (E) frequency (ν), and
energy diagram.
wavelength (λ) are given by the
equations:
E = hν, νλ = c, and λ = hc/E,
where h is Planck’s constant and c is the speed of light. Since the energy
difference between the ground state and the upper energy state
(S1(n) – S0) is greater than the energy difference between the upper state
and the intermediate state (S1(n) – S0(n)), it is evident from these equations
that the energy of the exciting photon is greater than that of the
fluorescing photon, and thus, the wavelength of the exciting photon
must be shorter than that of the fluorescing photon.
Multiphoton Interactions
Although the interaction probability is greatest for single-photon
absorption, if two or more lower energy (longer wavelength) photons
arrive simultaneously, there is some probability that they can excite the
molecule as long as
(E1 - E0) = hc (1/λ1 + 1/λ2 . . . + 1/λn)
where λ1 . . . λn are the wavelengths of individual photons. This is
demonstrated in Figure 2, where a 5 eV electronic transition in a
serotonin molecule can be excited by a single 250 nm photon (deep
ultraviolet), two 500 nm photons (green), or three 750 nm photons
(near-infrared).
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Recommended Accessories and Diagnostic Equipment
When dealing with any ultrafast laser experiment, it is important to
have a stable environment and to have the ancillary equipment necessary
to measure and verify laser parameters. Extremely small variations in
laser cavity spacing and alignment can have a major effect on the output
of the laser system. Coherent’s ultrafast laser systems, like the Mira and
Vitesse, include internal diagnostics and correction systems to
automatically ensure proper performance under most laboratory
conditions. Nevertheless, independent monitoring of output
characteristics ensures optimum performance.
Vibration Isolation
Figure 2. Multiphoton absorption in a seratonin molecule.
Probability for
Absorption
Single-photon: ∝ I
Two-photon: ∝ I 2
Three-photon: ∝ I 3
The probability of two-photon absorption is much smaller than that
for single-photon absorption, and the probability of three-photon
absorption is smaller still. The absorption probability, however, is
nonlinear and increases with the square of photon intensity (I 2) for twophoton absorption and as the cube of photon intensity for three-photon
absorption. Since intensity is a measure of power per unit area, the high
peak power and focusability of ultrafast pulses mean that modelocked
Ti:Sapphire lasers like the Mira® and Vitesse™ are ideal sources for
multiphoton applications.
Although two-photon fluorescence using a cw laser is possible,
excitation by a Gaussian pulse with a pulsewidth (τ) of 200 fsec
(1.0 fs = 1.0x10-15 sec) and a pulse frequency (f) of 80 MHz increases the
two-photon absorption rate by a factor of 0.56 (1/τf), or 35,000! Using
this relationship, it follows that to achieve the same two-photon
absorption rate as a femtosecond laser with an average power of 3 mW
to 10 mW, it requires 500 mW to 1800 mW of cw excitation1 — power
levels that could cause extensive photodamage. Another source states
that single-mode cw excitation requires 102-103 times more average
power than pulsed excitation to yield the same rate of two-photon
excitation.2 In fact, according to Winfried Denk, who co-invented
multiphoton microscopy, “The use of such short pulses and small duty
cycles is, in fact, essential to permit image acquisition in a reasonable
time while using ‘biologically tolerable’ power levels.”33
1
S.W. Hell, M. Booth, S. Wilms, C.M. Schnetter, A. K. Kirsch, D.J. Ardnt-Jovin, and T.M. Jovin, “Twophoton near- and far-field fluorescence microscopy with continuous-wave excitation,” Opt. Let., 23,
1238-1240 (1996).
2 C. Xu and W. W. Webb, “Measurement of two-photon excitation cross sections of molecular
fluorophores with data from 690 to 1050 nm,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. B., 13, 481–491 (1996).
3 W. Denk, D.W. Piston, and W.W. Webb, in Handbook of Biological Confocal Microscopy, 2nd ed., edited
by James B. Pawley (Plenum Press, New York, NY, 1972), Chap. 28, pp. 445-450.
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Ultrafast experiments require a relatively vibration-free environment,
and the laser should always be mounted on a vibration-isolation table.
For best results we recommend well-damped, 8-inch-thick tables
mounted on air supports. Coherent can supply these tables to meet your
site-specific or unique application needs.
Beam Diagnostic Instrumentation
The key optical parameters in an ultrafast laser system are
wavelength, average power, peak power, pulsewidth, and pulse
repetition rate. In addition, it is important to know that the laser is fully
modelocked, and to be alerted to cw breakthrough.
Measuring Wavelength
The Mira Optima 900 comes with the micrometer settings calibrated.
These settings will generally be good to about +1 nm, so in many cases
where the customer is exciting a sample with a broad absorption cross
section (for example, MPE), this level of accuracy will be sufficient —
especially since the bandwidth of the pulse is 5 nm to 10 nm.
For customers who need to know the center wavelength more
accurately, a WaveMate™ is a fine solution. The WaveMate, an
inexpensive wavemeter manufactured by Coherent, measures
wavelength with 0.1 nm accuracy and is ideal for most applications.
Measuring Pulsewidth
The width of an ultrafast laser pulse cannot be measured directly.
Instead, the pulsewidth must be inferred from secondary measurements.
The preferred method for determining pulsewidth is to use an
autocorrelator. An autocorrelator determines the pulsewidth by separating
the beam into two parts and focusing them to the same point in an anglematched nonlinear crystal; then observing the second-harmonic output
while varying the path-length difference between the two beams. By
making assumptions about the shape of the pulse (e.g., Gaussian,
Lorentzian), the output is de-convoluted and the pulsewidth obtained.
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Because of their simplicity and hands-off operation, the BioLight-1000
and Vitesse family of lasers are particularly suited for biology
laboratories where the researchers have not had extensive laser
experience. In this case, the benefits of hands-free control will outweigh
any constraints due to wavelength limitations. However, the Mira
Optima 900 is still the industry standard for ultrafast lasers. The Mira can
be used with a variety of pump sources and, when combined with Mira
accessories, this system provides tunable ultrafast performance from the
UV to the mid-IR. The ultimate choice of laser will depend on both the
specific experimental requirements and a customer’s needs.
Attaching the Laser and Microscope
Ultrafast lasers are large, and cannot be attached directly onto the
microscope. Two methods are available to attach the laser and
microscope: direct and fiber coupling. Directly coupling the laser beam
into the microscope is accomplished with relay mirrors. Fiber coupling
uses a fiber-optic waveguide to guide the beam into the scanhead. Both
methods have advantages and disadvantages.
Localized Fluorescence
Rayleigh Scattering
∝ 1/λ4
Scattering produced by
small particles is proportional to the inverse fourth
power of the wavelength of
light being scattered. Thus
the longer wavelengths used
for multiphoton excitation
will be scattered much less
by small particles than the
visible wavelengths used for
conventional confocal
microscopy.
Direct coupling (used in the CalTech system shown earlier) provides a
simple solution for delivery of ultrafast pulses at a higher average power
than is possible with a fiber delivery set-up. However, maintaining
alignment of the relay mirrors can be a problem, and the beam path
should be enclosed to prevent accidentally exposing the operator to the
beam. In addition, group velocity dispersion from the microscope optics
can result in a broadened pulsewidth, which will effect both the twophoton absorption and the imaging quality.
Fiber coupling eliminates enclosure issues, but requires a grating
compensation system that enables fiber delivery of ultrafast pulses
without risk of self-phase modulation. This grating compensation allows
the user to vary the pulsewidth and dispersion characteristics of the
pulse in order to compensate for group velocity dispersion in the
microscope. It also allows the laser to be vibrationally isolated from the
microscope, and helps facilitate scanhead alignment in set-ups using
multiple microscopes. There are, however, several constraints with fiber
delivery. The necessity of delivering an ultrafast pulse without self-phase
modulation puts an upper limit on the power delivered by the fiber. This
results in lower average power when compared to directly coupled
systems. Fiber delivery also can cause limitations in the tuning range due
to constraints in fiber design.
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Another advantage of multiphoton absorption is illustrated in
Figure 3. With single-photon absorption, when a laser is focused to a
point within a sample, the sample may, because of the large probability
of single-photon
absorption, fluoresce
throughout the entire
beam path. Using
multiphoton absorption,
induced fluorescence
occurs only at, or near,
the focal point of the
beam. Since the position
of the focal point can be
precisely determined,
multiphoton fluorescence
can yield a great deal of
information about specific
points below the sample
surface. Furthermore,
longer wavelengths,
Figure 3. Pink volume illustrates two-photon
particularly the nearinfrared, penetrate deeper and single-photon fluorescence induced by a
focused laser beam4.
in biological materials and 4
Modified image from: Center for Biomedical Imaging
are not scattered as much Technology, “Two-photon microscopy,”
http://www.cbit.uchc.edu/microscopy/two_photon.html.
as shorter wavelengths.
Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy
Confocal Microscopy
Advantages
• Lower-cost probe laser
• Higher lateral resolution
Disadvantages
• Lower contrast
• Limited depth penetration
• Photodamage
Laser scanning confocal
microscopy (LSCM, also referred to as
CSLM, confocal scanning laser
microscopy) has been established as a
valuable tool for obtaining highresolution images and threedimensional reconstructions of a
variety of biological specimens.
The basic operation of a confocal
laser microscope is shown in Figure 4.
A beam of laser light (usually from an
argon or krypton ion laser) is focused
onto a fluorescent specimen by a
microscope objective lens. The
fluorescent energy from the sample is
then collected through the same
-7-
Figure 4. Simplified optics of a
confocal laser microscope5.
5
Lance Ladic, “Simplified optics of a LSCM,”
http://www.cs.ubc.ca/spider/ladic/images/
optics.gif.
microscope objective and recorded by a photodetector. The optical
system is designed so that the laser’s focal point in the sample is imaged
exactly on the face of the photodetector (i.e., confocal). By its nature then,
any fluorescence emanating from the point of laser focus will be focused
on the photodetector, and any fluorescence emanating from points other
than the point of laser focus will be out of focus at the photodetector. Thus,
by inserting a small aperture in front of the photodetector, the gathered
fluorescence can be limited to a region very close to the point of focus of
the laser. The smaller the aperture is, the higher the resolution will be.
Critical Equipment — Microscope and Laser
Although there are many components in an MPE microscope,
including the data acquisition software and hardware, the most critical
components to the success of the system are the microscope and the
ultrafast laser.
MPE Microscopes
Most existing laboratory systems have been built by modifying an
existing confocal scanning microscope (essentially removing the confocal
aperture) and attaching an ultrafast laser system. Now, several
manufacturers, including Zeiss, BioRad, and Leica, are offering
microscopes specifically designed for MPE applications.
In LCSM, the focal point of the laser spot is stepped across the sample
in a raster (x-y) pattern, always maintaining the confocal nature of the
image at the detector. Fluorescence information is accumulated on a
point-by-point basis with a digital processing system, and a fluorescent
cross section of the sample at the focal plane is obtained. By stepping the
focus vertically (z), multiple slices can be used to build up a full threedimensional image. With non-opaque samples, the interior structure can
be clearly seen. By scanning in the x-z direction, a vertical cross section
can be obtained.
Ultrafast Laser Systems
Coherent offers several ultrafast laser options, including fixedfrequency turnkey lasers (the BioLight™-1000 and the Vitesse) and tunable
sources (the Vitesse-XT and the Mira Optima™).
Problems with LSCM
When working with biological samples, serious problems can occur
with normal confocal fluorescence microscopy. One problem is
photobleaching of the fluorescent label (fluorophore). In many cases,
researchers are interested in observing living specimens, often at several
stages during development. Because the small confocal aperture blocks
most of the light emitted by the tissue, including light coming from the
plane of focus, the exciting laser must be very bright to allow an
adequate signal-to-noise ratio. This bright light causes fluorescent dyes to
fade within minutes of continuous scanning. Thus the fluorescence signal
weakens as subsequent scans are made, either to produce a threedimensional image or to observe a single slice at several time points.
Phototoxicity is another problem. Many fluorescent dye molecules
generate cytotoxins like singlet oxygen or free radicals, and one must
limit the scanning time or light intensity to keep the specimen alive.
It Lives!
The BioLight-1000 is designed specifically for MPE applications where
cell viability is critical. This compact, diode-pumped, solid-state,
modelocked Nd:YLF laser produces 1047 nm light, and studies have
shown that cell viability increases dramatically at wavelengths above one
micron (see sidebar).
The Vitesse and the Vitesse-XT are turnkey systems that combine our
Verdi® (DPSS) pump source and a Ti:Sapphire femtosecond laser in a
compact, fully integrated package. The standard Vitesse operates at a
fixed wavelength. The Vitesse-XT includes fully computer-controlled
wavelength tunability and is ideal for many MPE applications. Both units
provide hands-off operation.
At the University of Wisconsin—Madison, researchers
used MPE to image cell
division in hamster embryo.
With confocal imaging at
approximately 520 nm, cell
division stopped. With MPE
imaging at 1047 nm, cell
division continued unabated.
The embryo was then
implanted in a female
hamster and brought to
term. The result—a healthy
female hamster who now
has a litter of her own.10
For the majority of MPE set-ups the most important requirement is
versatility. For customers who need the highest level of flexibility and
control, a Mira/Verdi combination offers the best solution. Mira Optima
900 modelocked Ti:Sapphire lasers offer several advantages in scientific
research environments. X-Wave™ optics are standard on all the Mira
models, making the system tunable over the entire Ti:Sapphire range
(700 nm to 1000 nm). Optima, an onboard diagnostic and control
system, makes laser alignment simple and routine.
10
Randall C. Willis, “Examining
live embryos nondestructively,”
Biophotonics Int., Nov/Dec 1999,
pp. 42-44.
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An Actual Set-up
Multiphoton Excitation Microscopy
Figure 8 shows an actual two-photon laser scanning microscope in use
at the biology department of the California Institute of Technology. The
microscope is a modified Molecular Dynamics Sarastro 2000 confocal
scanning unit used with a Nikon Optiphot 2 upright microscope. Only
minor modifications were made to allow two-photon imaging, and the
ability to do standard confocal imaging (i.e., by reinserting the confocal
pinhole) has been retained. Two-photon imaging is carried out using a
Coherent Mira 900 modelocked Ti:Sapphire laser, pumped by a Coherent
Innova® 310 8W argon-ion laser9.
MPE Microscopy
Advantages
• High contrast
• No bulk fluorescence
• All fluorescence from
focus point is collected
by detector
• Less damage to living
tissue
• Increased penetration
depth
Multiphoton microscopy solves the problems of LSCM: improving the
signal-to-noise ratio by eliminating fluorescence except at the focal point
of the laser, and reducing or eliminating photobleaching and
phototoxicity by using low average power.
There are two main differences between multiphoton and confocal
microscopy:
• The source is an ultrafast laser (usually Ti:Sapphire) with very
high peak power but low average power.
• The confocal aperture is unnecessary, because all of the fluorescent
light originates from the laser focus spot.
The differences between multiphoton microscopy and confocal
microscopy are shown in Figure 56.
f
Alternate Detector
Configurations
Because TPLSM requires
neither an aperture nor
focused light at the
detector, the emitted light
does not have to pass
through the microscope at
all. For example, a
photodetector could be
placed on the far side of the
sample.
Figure 8. The CalTech two-photon scanning laser microscope.
The two periscope mirrors that bring the laser beam up to the optical
table of the Sarastro 2000, as well as the two mirrors that bounce the beam
from the Mira 900 to the periscope, are optimized to reflect infrared. All of
the laser beams are enclosed in metal tubes and boxes to allow safe
operation.
Molecular Dynamics ImageSpace software controls the Sarastro 2000
and does all the data acquisition, image processing, data manipulation
and data quantification.
Figure 5. Comparison of a confocal and multiphoton microscope.
In the confocal case, fluorescence occurs throughout the sample and
must be blocked by the pinhole aperture. This not only eliminates the
fluorescence away from the focal point, but also the scattered (diffusing)
fluorescence from the focal point. Only the ballistic (straight line)
fluorescence is detected. In the multiphoton case, both the ballistic and the
diffusing photons are collected. Furthermore, since the excitation
wavelength has a longer wavelength, less excitation light is lost to
scattering.
9
Steve Potter, “Two-photon laser-scanning microscope,”
http://broccoli.caltech.edu/~pinelab/2PhEquip.html.
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6
Microcosm, Inc., “Multiphoton fluorescence microscopy,”
http://www.microcosm.com/tutorial/tutorial3.html.
-9-
Enhancing Axial Resolution with Three-photon Microscopy
As was mentioned above, an important benefit of multiphoton
microscopy is the improved axial resolution brought about by the
nonlinear processes involved. In two-photon processes, the excitation
cross section is proportional to the square of the laser intensity.
Furthermore, the intensity of a Gaussian beam decreases roughly as the
square of the distance from the peak. Consequently, the cross section for
two-photon fluorescence is inversely proportional to the fourth power of
the distance from the focal point of the laser beam.
Use of three-photon excitation can enhance the z-axis resolution even
more, as demonstrated in Figure 6. In this example, the focal point of an
ultrafast Ti:Sapphire laser was moved from a cover glass into a fluorescing
film (the laser was operating at 900 nm). In curve a, an ultraviolet
transition (300 nm) in BBO/toluene was probed by three-photon
excitation. In curve b, a blue transition (450 nm) in rhodamine 6G was
probed by two-photon excitation. The smaller cross section and greater
nonlinearity of the 3-photon transition significantly increases the z-axis
resolution7.
Experimental Set-up
The schematic of a typical multiphoton excitation microscope setup is
shown in Figure 7. The lower portion of the microscope uses a
conventional optical microscope objective. The upper portion includes a
photomultiplier tube (or other photon detector) that is filtered to
eliminate stray light from the laser or other source; a dichroc mirror that
reflects the near-infrared laser light down through the objective, while
transmitting the visible fluorescent light to the photodetector, and to an
x-y raster scanning unit that can rapidly deflect the laser beam over the
objective field.
Control electronics synchronize both the x-y raster scan and the
detector with pulses from the modelocked laser. Microcomputers and
workstations are used to store and process the data, and to create threedimensional images8.
Resolution
In general, surface (x-y)
resolution with TPLSM
microscopy is slightly worse
than with LSCM using the
same fluorophore, because
the excitation wavelength is
twice as long. The real
benefits are in axial
resolution, and in the ability
to penetrate more than
twice as deep into biological
samples without damaging
the sample.
Figure 6. Resolution along the z-axis for two-photon and
three-photon excitation.
7
Microcosm, Inc., “Multiphoton fluorescence microscopy.”
-10-
Figure 7. A typical multiphoton microscope set-up.
8
Lance Ladic, “A typical LSCM system,” http://www.cs.ubc.ca/spider/ladic/images/system.gif.
-11 -
Enhancing Axial Resolution with Three-photon Microscopy
As was mentioned above, an important benefit of multiphoton
microscopy is the improved axial resolution brought about by the
nonlinear processes involved. In two-photon processes, the excitation
cross section is proportional to the square of the laser intensity.
Furthermore, the intensity of a Gaussian beam decreases roughly as the
square of the distance from the peak. Consequently, the cross section for
two-photon fluorescence is inversely proportional to the fourth power of
the distance from the focal point of the laser beam.
Use of three-photon excitation can enhance the z-axis resolution even
more, as demonstrated in Figure 6. In this example, the focal point of an
ultrafast Ti:Sapphire laser was moved from a cover glass into a fluorescing
film (the laser was operating at 900 nm). In curve a, an ultraviolet
transition (300 nm) in BBO/toluene was probed by three-photon
excitation. In curve b, a blue transition (450 nm) in rhodamine 6G was
probed by two-photon excitation. The smaller cross section and greater
nonlinearity of the 3-photon transition significantly increases the z-axis
resolution7.
Experimental Set-up
The schematic of a typical multiphoton excitation microscope setup is
shown in Figure 7. The lower portion of the microscope uses a
conventional optical microscope objective. The upper portion includes a
photomultiplier tube (or other photon detector) that is filtered to
eliminate stray light from the laser or other source; a dichroc mirror that
reflects the near-infrared laser light down through the objective, while
transmitting the visible fluorescent light to the photodetector, and to an
x-y raster scanning unit that can rapidly deflect the laser beam over the
objective field.
Control electronics synchronize both the x-y raster scan and the
detector with pulses from the modelocked laser. Microcomputers and
workstations are used to store and process the data, and to create threedimensional images8.
Resolution
In general, surface (x-y)
resolution with TPLSM
microscopy is slightly worse
than with LSCM using the
same fluorophore, because
the excitation wavelength is
twice as long. The real
benefits are in axial
resolution, and in the ability
to penetrate more than
twice as deep into biological
samples without damaging
the sample.
Figure 6. Resolution along the z-axis for two-photon and
three-photon excitation.
7
Microcosm, Inc., “Multiphoton fluorescence microscopy.”
-10-
Figure 7. A typical multiphoton microscope set-up.
8
Lance Ladic, “A typical LSCM system,” http://www.cs.ubc.ca/spider/ladic/images/system.gif.
-11 -
An Actual Set-up
Multiphoton Excitation Microscopy
Figure 8 shows an actual two-photon laser scanning microscope in use
at the biology department of the California Institute of Technology. The
microscope is a modified Molecular Dynamics Sarastro 2000 confocal
scanning unit used with a Nikon Optiphot 2 upright microscope. Only
minor modifications were made to allow two-photon imaging, and the
ability to do standard confocal imaging (i.e., by reinserting the confocal
pinhole) has been retained. Two-photon imaging is carried out using a
Coherent Mira 900 modelocked Ti:Sapphire laser, pumped by a Coherent
Innova® 310 8W argon-ion laser9.
MPE Microscopy
Advantages
• High contrast
• No bulk fluorescence
• All fluorescence from
focus point is collected
by detector
• Less damage to living
tissue
• Increased penetration
depth
Multiphoton microscopy solves the problems of LSCM: improving the
signal-to-noise ratio by eliminating fluorescence except at the focal point
of the laser, and reducing or eliminating photobleaching and
phototoxicity by using low average power.
There are two main differences between multiphoton and confocal
microscopy:
• The source is an ultrafast laser (usually Ti:Sapphire) with very
high peak power but low average power.
• The confocal aperture is unnecessary, because all of the fluorescent
light originates from the laser focus spot.
The differences between multiphoton microscopy and confocal
microscopy are shown in Figure 56.
f
Alternate Detector
Configurations
Because TPLSM requires
neither an aperture nor
focused light at the
detector, the emitted light
does not have to pass
through the microscope at
all. For example, a
photodetector could be
placed on the far side of the
sample.
Figure 8. The CalTech two-photon scanning laser microscope.
The two periscope mirrors that bring the laser beam up to the optical
table of the Sarastro 2000, as well as the two mirrors that bounce the beam
from the Mira 900 to the periscope, are optimized to reflect infrared. All of
the laser beams are enclosed in metal tubes and boxes to allow safe
operation.
Molecular Dynamics ImageSpace software controls the Sarastro 2000
and does all the data acquisition, image processing, data manipulation
and data quantification.
Figure 5. Comparison of a confocal and multiphoton microscope.
In the confocal case, fluorescence occurs throughout the sample and
must be blocked by the pinhole aperture. This not only eliminates the
fluorescence away from the focal point, but also the scattered (diffusing)
fluorescence from the focal point. Only the ballistic (straight line)
fluorescence is detected. In the multiphoton case, both the ballistic and the
diffusing photons are collected. Furthermore, since the excitation
wavelength has a longer wavelength, less excitation light is lost to
scattering.
9
Steve Potter, “Two-photon laser-scanning microscope,”
http://broccoli.caltech.edu/~pinelab/2PhEquip.html.
-12-
6
Microcosm, Inc., “Multiphoton fluorescence microscopy,”
http://www.microcosm.com/tutorial/tutorial3.html.
-9-
microscope objective and recorded by a photodetector. The optical
system is designed so that the laser’s focal point in the sample is imaged
exactly on the face of the photodetector (i.e., confocal). By its nature then,
any fluorescence emanating from the point of laser focus will be focused
on the photodetector, and any fluorescence emanating from points other
than the point of laser focus will be out of focus at the photodetector. Thus,
by inserting a small aperture in front of the photodetector, the gathered
fluorescence can be limited to a region very close to the point of focus of
the laser. The smaller the aperture is, the higher the resolution will be.
Critical Equipment — Microscope and Laser
Although there are many components in an MPE microscope,
including the data acquisition software and hardware, the most critical
components to the success of the system are the microscope and the
ultrafast laser.
MPE Microscopes
Most existing laboratory systems have been built by modifying an
existing confocal scanning microscope (essentially removing the confocal
aperture) and attaching an ultrafast laser system. Now, several
manufacturers, including Zeiss, BioRad, and Leica, are offering
microscopes specifically designed for MPE applications.
In LCSM, the focal point of the laser spot is stepped across the sample
in a raster (x-y) pattern, always maintaining the confocal nature of the
image at the detector. Fluorescence information is accumulated on a
point-by-point basis with a digital processing system, and a fluorescent
cross section of the sample at the focal plane is obtained. By stepping the
focus vertically (z), multiple slices can be used to build up a full threedimensional image. With non-opaque samples, the interior structure can
be clearly seen. By scanning in the x-z direction, a vertical cross section
can be obtained.
Ultrafast Laser Systems
Coherent offers several ultrafast laser options, including fixedfrequency turnkey lasers (the BioLight™-1000 and the Vitesse) and tunable
sources (the Vitesse-XT and the Mira Optima™).
Problems with LSCM
When working with biological samples, serious problems can occur
with normal confocal fluorescence microscopy. One problem is
photobleaching of the fluorescent label (fluorophore). In many cases,
researchers are interested in observing living specimens, often at several
stages during development. Because the small confocal aperture blocks
most of the light emitted by the tissue, including light coming from the
plane of focus, the exciting laser must be very bright to allow an
adequate signal-to-noise ratio. This bright light causes fluorescent dyes to
fade within minutes of continuous scanning. Thus the fluorescence signal
weakens as subsequent scans are made, either to produce a threedimensional image or to observe a single slice at several time points.
Phototoxicity is another problem. Many fluorescent dye molecules
generate cytotoxins like singlet oxygen or free radicals, and one must
limit the scanning time or light intensity to keep the specimen alive.
It Lives!
The BioLight-1000 is designed specifically for MPE applications where
cell viability is critical. This compact, diode-pumped, solid-state,
modelocked Nd:YLF laser produces 1047 nm light, and studies have
shown that cell viability increases dramatically at wavelengths above one
micron (see sidebar).
The Vitesse and the Vitesse-XT are turnkey systems that combine our
Verdi® (DPSS) pump source and a Ti:Sapphire femtosecond laser in a
compact, fully integrated package. The standard Vitesse operates at a
fixed wavelength. The Vitesse-XT includes fully computer-controlled
wavelength tunability and is ideal for many MPE applications. Both units
provide hands-off operation.
At the University of Wisconsin—Madison, researchers
used MPE to image cell
division in hamster embryo.
With confocal imaging at
approximately 520 nm, cell
division stopped. With MPE
imaging at 1047 nm, cell
division continued unabated.
The embryo was then
implanted in a female
hamster and brought to
term. The result—a healthy
female hamster who now
has a litter of her own.10
For the majority of MPE set-ups the most important requirement is
versatility. For customers who need the highest level of flexibility and
control, a Mira/Verdi combination offers the best solution. Mira Optima
900 modelocked Ti:Sapphire lasers offer several advantages in scientific
research environments. X-Wave™ optics are standard on all the Mira
models, making the system tunable over the entire Ti:Sapphire range
(700 nm to 1000 nm). Optima, an onboard diagnostic and control
system, makes laser alignment simple and routine.
10
Randall C. Willis, “Examining
live embryos nondestructively,”
Biophotonics Int., Nov/Dec 1999,
pp. 42-44.
-8-
-13-
Because of their simplicity and hands-off operation, the BioLight-1000
and Vitesse family of lasers are particularly suited for biology
laboratories where the researchers have not had extensive laser
experience. In this case, the benefits of hands-free control will outweigh
any constraints due to wavelength limitations. However, the Mira
Optima 900 is still the industry standard for ultrafast lasers. The Mira can
be used with a variety of pump sources and, when combined with Mira
accessories, this system provides tunable ultrafast performance from the
UV to the mid-IR. The ultimate choice of laser will depend on both the
specific experimental requirements and a customer’s needs.
Attaching the Laser and Microscope
Ultrafast lasers are large, and cannot be attached directly onto the
microscope. Two methods are available to attach the laser and
microscope: direct and fiber coupling. Directly coupling the laser beam
into the microscope is accomplished with relay mirrors. Fiber coupling
uses a fiber-optic waveguide to guide the beam into the scanhead. Both
methods have advantages and disadvantages.
Localized Fluorescence
Rayleigh Scattering
∝ 1/λ4
Scattering produced by
small particles is proportional to the inverse fourth
power of the wavelength of
light being scattered. Thus
the longer wavelengths used
for multiphoton excitation
will be scattered much less
by small particles than the
visible wavelengths used for
conventional confocal
microscopy.
Direct coupling (used in the CalTech system shown earlier) provides a
simple solution for delivery of ultrafast pulses at a higher average power
than is possible with a fiber delivery set-up. However, maintaining
alignment of the relay mirrors can be a problem, and the beam path
should be enclosed to prevent accidentally exposing the operator to the
beam. In addition, group velocity dispersion from the microscope optics
can result in a broadened pulsewidth, which will effect both the twophoton absorption and the imaging quality.
Fiber coupling eliminates enclosure issues, but requires a grating
compensation system that enables fiber delivery of ultrafast pulses
without risk of self-phase modulation. This grating compensation allows
the user to vary the pulsewidth and dispersion characteristics of the
pulse in order to compensate for group velocity dispersion in the
microscope. It also allows the laser to be vibrationally isolated from the
microscope, and helps facilitate scanhead alignment in set-ups using
multiple microscopes. There are, however, several constraints with fiber
delivery. The necessity of delivering an ultrafast pulse without self-phase
modulation puts an upper limit on the power delivered by the fiber. This
results in lower average power when compared to directly coupled
systems. Fiber delivery also can cause limitations in the tuning range due
to constraints in fiber design.
-14-
Another advantage of multiphoton absorption is illustrated in
Figure 3. With single-photon absorption, when a laser is focused to a
point within a sample, the sample may, because of the large probability
of single-photon
absorption, fluoresce
throughout the entire
beam path. Using
multiphoton absorption,
induced fluorescence
occurs only at, or near,
the focal point of the
beam. Since the position
of the focal point can be
precisely determined,
multiphoton fluorescence
can yield a great deal of
information about specific
points below the sample
surface. Furthermore,
longer wavelengths,
Figure 3. Pink volume illustrates two-photon
particularly the nearinfrared, penetrate deeper and single-photon fluorescence induced by a
focused laser beam4.
in biological materials and 4
Modified image from: Center for Biomedical Imaging
are not scattered as much Technology, “Two-photon microscopy,”
http://www.cbit.uchc.edu/microscopy/two_photon.html.
as shorter wavelengths.
Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy
Confocal Microscopy
Advantages
• Lower-cost probe laser
• Higher lateral resolution
Disadvantages
• Lower contrast
• Limited depth penetration
• Photodamage
Laser scanning confocal
microscopy (LSCM, also referred to as
CSLM, confocal scanning laser
microscopy) has been established as a
valuable tool for obtaining highresolution images and threedimensional reconstructions of a
variety of biological specimens.
The basic operation of a confocal
laser microscope is shown in Figure 4.
A beam of laser light (usually from an
argon or krypton ion laser) is focused
onto a fluorescent specimen by a
microscope objective lens. The
fluorescent energy from the sample is
then collected through the same
-7-
Figure 4. Simplified optics of a
confocal laser microscope5.
5
Lance Ladic, “Simplified optics of a LSCM,”
http://www.cs.ubc.ca/spider/ladic/images/
optics.gif.
Recommended Accessories and Diagnostic Equipment
When dealing with any ultrafast laser experiment, it is important to
have a stable environment and to have the ancillary equipment necessary
to measure and verify laser parameters. Extremely small variations in
laser cavity spacing and alignment can have a major effect on the output
of the laser system. Coherent’s ultrafast laser systems, like the Mira and
Vitesse, include internal diagnostics and correction systems to
automatically ensure proper performance under most laboratory
conditions. Nevertheless, independent monitoring of output
characteristics ensures optimum performance.
Vibration Isolation
Figure 2. Multiphoton absorption in a seratonin molecule.
Probability for
Absorption
Single-photon: ∝ I
Two-photon: ∝ I 2
Three-photon: ∝ I 3
The probability of two-photon absorption is much smaller than that
for single-photon absorption, and the probability of three-photon
absorption is smaller still. The absorption probability, however, is
nonlinear and increases with the square of photon intensity (I 2) for twophoton absorption and as the cube of photon intensity for three-photon
absorption. Since intensity is a measure of power per unit area, the high
peak power and focusability of ultrafast pulses mean that modelocked
Ti:Sapphire lasers like the Mira® and Vitesse™ are ideal sources for
multiphoton applications.
Although two-photon fluorescence using a cw laser is possible,
excitation by a Gaussian pulse with a pulsewidth (τ) of 200 fsec
(1.0 fs = 1.0x10-15 sec) and a pulse frequency (f) of 80 MHz increases the
two-photon absorption rate by a factor of 0.56 (1/τf), or 35,000! Using
this relationship, it follows that to achieve the same two-photon
absorption rate as a femtosecond laser with an average power of 3 mW
to 10 mW, it requires 500 mW to 1800 mW of cw excitation1 — power
levels that could cause extensive photodamage. Another source states
that single-mode cw excitation requires 102-103 times more average
power than pulsed excitation to yield the same rate of two-photon
excitation.2 In fact, according to Winfried Denk, who co-invented
multiphoton microscopy, “The use of such short pulses and small duty
cycles is, in fact, essential to permit image acquisition in a reasonable
time while using ‘biologically tolerable’ power levels.”33
1
S.W. Hell, M. Booth, S. Wilms, C.M. Schnetter, A. K. Kirsch, D.J. Ardnt-Jovin, and T.M. Jovin, “Twophoton near- and far-field fluorescence microscopy with continuous-wave excitation,” Opt. Let., 23,
1238-1240 (1996).
2 C. Xu and W. W. Webb, “Measurement of two-photon excitation cross sections of molecular
fluorophores with data from 690 to 1050 nm,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. B., 13, 481–491 (1996).
3 W. Denk, D.W. Piston, and W.W. Webb, in Handbook of Biological Confocal Microscopy, 2nd ed., edited
by James B. Pawley (Plenum Press, New York, NY, 1972), Chap. 28, pp. 445-450.
-6-
Ultrafast experiments require a relatively vibration-free environment,
and the laser should always be mounted on a vibration-isolation table.
For best results we recommend well-damped, 8-inch-thick tables
mounted on air supports. Coherent can supply these tables to meet your
site-specific or unique application needs.
Beam Diagnostic Instrumentation
The key optical parameters in an ultrafast laser system are
wavelength, average power, peak power, pulsewidth, and pulse
repetition rate. In addition, it is important to know that the laser is fully
modelocked, and to be alerted to cw breakthrough.
Measuring Wavelength
The Mira Optima 900 comes with the micrometer settings calibrated.
These settings will generally be good to about +1 nm, so in many cases
where the customer is exciting a sample with a broad absorption cross
section (for example, MPE), this level of accuracy will be sufficient —
especially since the bandwidth of the pulse is 5 nm to 10 nm.
For customers who need to know the center wavelength more
accurately, a WaveMate™ is a fine solution. The WaveMate, an
inexpensive wavemeter manufactured by Coherent, measures
wavelength with 0.1 nm accuracy and is ideal for most applications.
Measuring Pulsewidth
The width of an ultrafast laser pulse cannot be measured directly.
Instead, the pulsewidth must be inferred from secondary measurements.
The preferred method for determining pulsewidth is to use an
autocorrelator. An autocorrelator determines the pulsewidth by separating
the beam into two parts and focusing them to the same point in an anglematched nonlinear crystal; then observing the second-harmonic output
while varying the path-length difference between the two beams. By
making assumptions about the shape of the pulse (e.g., Gaussian,
Lorentzian), the output is de-convoluted and the pulsewidth obtained.
-15-
Autocorrelators are available from several sources, for example, APE
in Berlin, Germany. All models provide pulsewidth data, and some
models also provide wavelength information. The main drawback of
these devices is their cost.
A less expensive alternative is a commercial (Rees) spectrometer with
additional computer software provided by Coherent. In this case, the
bandwidth of the pulse can be displayed on a standard personal
computer. The pulsewidth is approximated, based on the bandwidth.
These devices are less accurate than an autocorrelator (~+10%) but are
fine for MPE applications. They also provide wavelength data and can be
used to monitor for cw breakthrough.
Theory
Multiphoton excitation microscopy is an amalgamation of
multiphoton fluorescence and confocal scanning microscopy. To fully
understand MPE microscopy, it is important to have a basic
understanding of these two techniques.
Multiphoton Fluorescence
Measuring Average Power
Coherent offers a variety of power and energy meters suitable for
measuring the average output power of an ultrafast system. Coherent’s
LaserMate™ and LabMaster™ power meters, with appropriate detectors,
are particularly well-suited.
Measuring Peak Power
Unfortunately, conventional power and energy meters cannot measure
the peak powers of ultrafast systems directly, because the pulse repetition
rate (~80 MHz) and the pulsewidth (<100 fsec) are beyond the
bandwidth and resolution limits of the instruments. Consequently, the
peak power must be determined by first determining the pulsewidth and
repetition rate of the system, and then calculating the peak power by the
formula
Ppeak = Pavg/(f × τ)
where f is the pulse repetition rate and τ is the pulsewidth. The pulse
repetition rate is fixed by the laser geometry, which can be found in the
laser specification table. The pulsewidth is best determined by using an
autocorrelator.
Photon Formulae
E = hν
νλ = c
λ = hc/E,
where
λ = wavelength
ν = frequency
E = energy
C = speed of light
h = Planck’s constant
In traditional fluorescence
spectroscopy, a single photon of
light is used to excite a molecule
from its ground state (S0) to an
upper energy state (S1(n)), as
λ
shown in Figure 1. Once excited,
the molecule then decays to an
intermediate energy state (S0(n)),
giving off a photon of light
(fluorescence) that is
representative of the difference in
energy between those states. The
relationships between photon
Figure 1. Simplified three-level
energy (E) frequency (ν), and
energy diagram.
wavelength (λ) are given by the
equations:
E = hν, νλ = c, and λ = hc/E,
where h is Planck’s constant and c is the speed of light. Since the energy
difference between the ground state and the upper energy state
(S1(n) – S0) is greater than the energy difference between the upper state
and the intermediate state (S1(n) – S0(n)), it is evident from these equations
that the energy of the exciting photon is greater than that of the
fluorescing photon, and thus, the wavelength of the exciting photon
must be shorter than that of the fluorescing photon.
Multiphoton Interactions
Although the interaction probability is greatest for single-photon
absorption, if two or more lower energy (longer wavelength) photons
arrive simultaneously, there is some probability that they can excite the
molecule as long as
(E1 - E0) = hc (1/λ1 + 1/λ2 . . . + 1/λn)
where λ1 . . . λn are the wavelengths of individual photons. This is
demonstrated in Figure 2, where a 5 eV electronic transition in a
serotonin molecule can be excited by a single 250 nm photon (deep
ultraviolet), two 500 nm photons (green), or three 750 nm photons
(near-infrared).
-16-
-5-
Glossary
Autofluorescence
Some biological samples contain naturally occurring fluorophores (e.g., serotonin,
NADH, flavins) that can be used as marker tags in fluorescence microscopy, without the
introduction of additional dyes.
Brightness
The intensity per unit area of a beam projected onto a plane normal to the direction of
propagation. Brightness is also known as luminance and luminous sterance.
Confocal aperture
In confocal microscopy, the limiting aperture is placed in front of a detector at the focal
point of the imaging system. Its purpose is to eliminate all light emanating from points
other than the focal point of the laser.
Contrast
Contrast is the luminance of an image or point of interest with respect to the background
(or other points that are not of interest). Contrast is defined as (Li-Lb)/Lb, where Li is the
luminance of the image, and Lb is the luminance of the background. Because luminescence
away from the point of interest is dramatically reduced or eliminated in MPE microscopy,
MPE images generally have higher contrast than confocal microscope images.
CW breakthrough
In a modelocked laser, if any part of the system goes out of alignment or synchronism,
an unwanted continuous-wave (cw) component in the output beam can seriously degrade
an MPE experiment by causing unwanted bulk fluorescence and photobleaching, thermal
damage, reduced peak pulse power, increased pulsewidth, and other undesirable effects.
In the Vitesse-XT and Mira Optima systems, output is monitored. If these systems detect
cw radiation, they automatically send a signal to the starter to re-initiate modelocking.
Fluorophores
Fluorophores are fluorescent dyes that can be introduced into a sample and attach
themselves to features of interest. Some fluorophores suited for multiphoton excitation,
along with their two-photon excitation wavelength, are shown in the table below. Twophoton absorption cross sections are quite broad, and the optimum excitation wavelength
depends on the solvents, pulsewidth, laser power and other factors.
The vast majority of current MPE applications are related to calcium (Ca2+) imaging
(700 nm to 720 nm excitation), “wild-type” green fluorescent protein (GFP) imaging (800
nm to 850 nm excitation), and enhanced GFP imaging using a mutated protein with an
order of magnitude greater fluorescence (900 nm to 950 nm). Other fluorophores are listed
in Table 1, which follows.
-17-
Fluorophore
Bis MSB
Bodipy
Cascade Blue
Coumarin 307
DAPI
Dansyl Hydrazine
Wavelength (nm)
690
920
750
775
700
700
Fluorophore
DiI
Fluorescein
Indo-1
Lucifer Yellow
Rhodamine B
Wavelength (nm)
700
780
700
860
840
Table 1. Two-photon absorption wavelengths.
Intensity
The power (flux) per unit solid angle of a laser beam.
Introduction
Multiphoton excitation (MPE) microscopy is a powerful tool
that combines scanning microscopy with multiphoton fluorescence
to create high-resolution, three-dimensional images of microscopic
samples. MPE is particularly useful in biology because it can be
used to probe delicate living cells and tissues without damaging
the sample. Although multiphoton excitation has been
demonstrated with high-power cw argon and krypton lasers, the
laser source of choice for MPE microscopy is an ultrafast
Ti:Sapphire laser.
Advantages of Multiphoton Excitation Microscopy
Advantages of Multiphoton Excitation Microscopy
Kerr lens effect
When an optical medium is placed in a strong electrical field, the index of refraction
changes. This is known as the Kerr effect. Light is an electromagnetic wave. When a
focused Gaussian laser beam passes through a Ti:Sapphire crystal, the electric field
generated by the beam causes a nonhomogeneous change in the index of refraction,
creating a weak lens that, along with the geometry of the laser cavity, results in higher
gain for modelocked pulses than for cw pulses.
Modelocking
When compared to conventional confocal microscopy, MPE
microscopy has many advantages:
• higher axial resolution
• greater sample penetration
• reduced photobleaching of marker dyes
• increased cell viability
Organization of This Tutorial
The ability to generate a train of very short pulses by modulating the gain or excitation
of a laser at a frequency with a period equal to the round-trip time of a photon in the
laser cavity (frequency = c/2nL). The resulting pulsewidth depends upon the gain
bandwidth of the laser medium (the larger the bandwidth, the narrower the pulse), the
accuracy of the frequency setting, and the stability of the laser cavity. Ti:Sapphire lasers
like the Mira and Vitesse are self-modelocked using the Kerr Lens Effect to generate
modelocked pulses with output pulsewidths in the 50 fs to 150 fs regime.
Optical sectioning
The ability to obtain an image of a planar layer of a sample at various points within
the sample. A section can be either horizontal (x-y) or vertical (x-z), or a combination
thereof. Optical sectioning is a major strength of scanning MPE microscopy, due to its
ability to penetrate deeper into a sample, and the enhanced contrast brought about by
fluorescing only at the focal point of the laser probe.
The first section of this tutorial, Theory, will discuss the basic
theory and concepts of multiphoton fluorescence and confocal
microscopy. These two concepts will then be brought together in a
discussion of MPE.
In the second section, Experimental Set-ups, the equipment
needed for a typical application will be described, along with
useful information on procedures and protocols.
The third section, Glossary, will provide definitions and
descriptions of words and concepts common to MPE experiments.
Photodamage
Damage to a sample caused by exposing it to intense light. Damage can be caused by
heat, ablation, bleaching, or the creation of singlet oxygen. For most biological samples,
infrared light is less destructive than visible or ultraviolet light. Using a low-duty-cycle
modelocked laser can minimize or eliminate heat damage.
-18-
-3-
Pulsed laser parameters
The following terms are commonly used to specify the performance of pulsed lasers.
(The equation for peak power depends upon the shape of the pulse, and is exact only for
square pulses.) The values given are for a 10 mW average power laser operating at a
100 MHz pulse rate with a 100 fsec pulsewidth.
Energy per pulse = average power/pulse rate = 0.1 nJ
Peak power = energy per pulse/pulsewidth = 1000W
Duty cycle = pulsewidth x pulse rate = 0.001%
Period (time between pulses) = 1/pulse rate = 100 µsec
Pulsewidth limit
The uncertainty principle demands that the product of the pulsewidth and the spectral
bandwidth of a laser pulse have a lower bound (i.e., ∆λ × ∆τ ≥ Constant). Consequently,
as the pulsewidth decreases, the spectral bandwidth increases. For example, a 70 fsec
pulse is spread over 13 nm11. Group velocity dispersion (GVD) in the microscope optics
also increases as the pulsewidth decreases, further broadening the pulse. For two-photon
and three-photon excitation, the absorption bandwidths typically correspond to the
spectral bandwidths obtained from 50 to 100 fs pulse. Decreasing the pulsewidth beyond
these limits results in less efficient absorption12.
Resolution
The lateral resolution of a single-photon fluorescence microscope versus a multiphoton
fluorescence microscope depends strongly on whether the excitation wavelength or the
fluorophore remains constant during the comparison. If the wavelength remains constant,
the resolution is the same for both systems. If the fluorophore is the same (meaning that
the excitation wavelength is doubled or tripled in the multiphoton case), the resolution of
the multiphoton system can be degraded by as much as a factor of two.
Uncaging experiments
In certain biological samples, ions (typically Ca2+) are trapped (caged) within the
cellular structure. By exciting these ions with ultraviolet light (<400 nm), they can be
released as free ions (uncaging). Unfortunately, the application of ultraviolet light can
damage the surrounding cells. By using multiphoton excitation, this collateral damage
can be avoided.
Working with UV-excited fluorophores
UV excitation presents some special challenges for laser microscopy because
conventional glass optical elements do not work efficiently in both the ultraviolet and the
visible. Furthermore, when working with biological samples, UV excitation can be very
destructive to the sample itself. Multiphoton excitation solves these problems because
both excitation and fluorescence wavelengths can be handled by conventional glass
optics; and, for most biological samples, the near-infrared excitation wavelength does not
damage the sample.
11
12
Denk, et. al., Handbook of Biological Confocal Microscopy.
Xu, et. al., and W. W. Webb, “Measurement of two-photon cross sections.”
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