Accounting for misalignments and thermal fluctuations in fluorescence correlation spectroscopy experiments on membranes†
Several authors have exploited the ability of the fluorescence correlation spectroscopy to probe motion at the molecular level. In a couple of decades, all their efforts have allowed the application of this technique even to the diffusion measurement of cellular components. Nowadays, the fluorescence correlation spectroscopy is considered a standard tool to measure diffusion in cells both in vivo and in vitro. Unfortunately, while the interpretation and the set-up have been consolidated for 3D diffusion measurements (i.e. diffusion in an aqueous solution), the experiments carried out on flat elements, such as membranes, show unusually high relative errors. Furthermore, long tail correlations are generally detected and ascribed to diffusion anomalies. The 2D fluorescence correlation measurements have been interpreted under certain hypotheses, whereby the membrane is assumed to be perfectly flat, motionless and aligned with the optical axes. Here, we investigated the robustness of these hypotheses, trying to understand, in an elementary but not trivial way, how misalignments and thermal fluctuations affect the temporal correlation of the intensity fluctuation collected during measurements on membranes.