Light-induced cell damage in live-cell super-resolution microscopy

Sina Wäldchen, Julian Lehmann, Teresa Klein, Sebastian van de Linde, Markus Sauer

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289 Citations (Scopus)
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Super-resolution microscopy can unravel previously hidden details of cellular structures but requires high irradiation intensities to use the limited photon budget efficiently. Such high photon densities are likely to induce cellular damage in live-cell experiments. We applied single-molecule localization microscopy conditions and tested the influence of irradiation intensity, illumination-mode, wavelength, light-dose, temperature and fluorescence labeling on the survival probability of different cell lines 20-24 hours after irradiation. In addition, we measured the microtubule growth speed after irradiation. The photo-sensitivity is dramatically increased at lower irradiation wavelength. We observed fixation, plasma membrane permeabilization and cytoskeleton destruction upon irradiation with shorter wavelengths. While cells stand light intensities of ~1 kW cm(-2) at 640 nm for several minutes, the maximum dose at 405 nm is only ~50 J cm(-2), emphasizing red fluorophores for live-cell localization microscopy. We also present strategies to minimize phototoxic factors and maximize the cells ability to cope with higher irradiation intensities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15348
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2015


  • single-molecule localization microscopy
  • cell damage


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