Photophysical properties of the hemicyanine Dy-630 and its potential as a single-molecule fluorescent probe for biophysical applications

Nikita Kumari, Monika A. Ciuba, Marcia Levitus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Protein-induced fluorescence enhancement (PIFE) is an increasingly used approach to investigate DNA-protein interactions at the single molecule level. The optimal probe for this type of application is highly photostable, has a high absorption extinction coefficient, and has a moderate fluorescence quantum yield that increases significantly when the dye is in close proximity to a large macromolecule such as a protein. So far, the green-absorbing symmetric cyanine known as Cy3 has been the probe of choice in this field because the magnitude of the increase observed upon protein binding (usually 2-4 -fold) is large enough to allow for the analysis of protein dynamics on the inherently noisy single-molecule signals. Here, we report the characterization of the photophysical properties of the red-absorbing hemicyanine dye Dy-630 in the context of its potential application as a single-molecule PIFE probe. The behavior of Dy-630 in solution is similar to that of Cy3; the fluorescence quantum yield and lifetime of Dy-630 increase with increasing viscosity, and decrease with increasing temperature indicating the existence of an activated nonradiative process that depopulates the singlet state of the dye. As in the case of Cy3, the results of transient spectroscopy experiments are consistent with the formation of a photoisomer that reverts to the ground state thermally in the microsecond timescale. Unfortunately, experiments with DNA samples paint a more complex scenario. As in the case of Cy3, the fluorescence quantum yield of Dy-630 increases significantly when the dye interacts with the DNA bases, but in the case of Dy-630 attachment to DNA results in an already long fluorescence lifetime that does not provide a significant window for the protein-induced enhancement observed with Cy3. Although we show that Dy-630 may not be well-suited for PIFE, our results shed light on the optimal design principles for probes for PIFE applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number015004
JournalMethods and applications in fluorescence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • PIFE
  • asymmetric cyanines
  • dark states
  • photoisomerization
  • photophysics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Spectroscopy


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