Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy (TIRFM) – novel techniques and applications

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Verena Richter Michael Wagner Herbert Schneckenburger


Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy (TIRFM) has been established almost 40 years ago for studies of plasma membranes or membrane proximal sites of living cells. The method is based on light incidence at an angle above the critical angle of total internal reflection and generation of an evanescent electromagnetic field penetrating about 100 nm into a sample and permitting selective excitation of membrane proximal fluorophores. Two techniques are presented here: prism-type TIRFM and objective-type TIRFM with high aperture microscope objective lenses. Furthermore, numerous applications are summarized, e.g. measurement of focal adhesions, cell-substrate topology, endocytosis or exocytosis of vesicles as well as single molecule detection within thin layers. Finally, highly innovative combinations of TIRFM with Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) measurements as well as with Structured Illumination Microscopy (SIM) and fluorescence reader technologies are presented.

Keywords: Optical microscopy, living cells, TIRFM, FRET, SIM, fluorescence reader

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RICHTER, Verena; WAGNER, Michael; SCHNECKENBURGER, Herbert. Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy (TIRFM) – novel techniques and applications. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 8, n. 11, dec. 2020. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 16 july 2024. doi:
Research Articles


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