Temperature-cycle microscopy reveals single-molecule conformational heterogeneity†
Our previous temperature-cycle study reported FRET transitions between different states on FRET-labeled polyprolines [Yuan et al., PCCP, 2011, 13, 1762]. The conformational origin of such transitions, however, was left open. In this work, we apply temperature-cycle microscopy of single FRET-labeled polyproline and dsDNA molecules and compare their responses to resolve the conformational origin of different FRET states. We observe different steady-state FRET distributions and different temperature-cycle responses in the two samples. Our temperature-cycle results on single molecules resemble the results in steady-state measurements but reveal a dark state which could not be observed otherwise. By comparing the timescales and probabilities of different FRET states in temperature-cycle traces, we assign the conformational heterogeneity reflected by different FRET states to linker dynamics, dye–chain and dye–dye interactions. The dark state and low-FRET state are likely due to dye–dye interactions at short separations.