Benchmarking thiolate driven photoswitching of cyanine dyes

Herdly, Lucas and Tinning, Peter W. and Geiser, Angéline and Taylor, Holly and Gould, Gwyn W. and van de Linde, Sebastian (2023) Benchmarking thiolate driven photoswitching of cyanine dyes. Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 127 (3). pp. 732-741. ISSN 1520-6106 (

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Carbocyanines are among the best performing dyes in single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM), but their performance critically relies on optimized photoswitching buffers. Here, we study the versatile role of thiols in cyanine photoswitching at varying intensities generated in a single acquisition by a micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) mirror placed in the excitation path. The key metrics we have analysed as a function of the thiolate concentration are photon budget, on-state and off-state lifetimes and the corresponding impact on image resolution. We show that thiolate acts as a concentration bandpass filter for the maximum achievable resolution and determine a minimum of ~1 mM is necessary to facilitate SMLM measurements. We also identify a concentration bandwidth of 1-16 mM in which the photoswitching performance can be balanced between high molecular brightness and high off-time to on-time ratios. Furthermore, we monitor the performance of the popular oxygen scavenger system based on glucose and glucose oxidase over time and show simple measures to avoid acidification during prolonged measurements. Finally, the impact of buffer settings is quantitatively tested on the distribution of the glucose transporter protein 4 within the plasma membrane of adipocytes. Our work provides a general strategy for achieving optimal resolution in SMLM with relevance for the development of novel buffers and dyes.