Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Robin M. Hochstrasser


Recently, observing biological process and structural details in live cell became feasible after the introduction of super-resolution microscopy. Super-resolution microscopy by single molecule localization is the method that has commonly been used for such purpose. There are mainly three approaches to it: stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM), photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM), and point accumulation in nanoscale topology (PAINT). STORM and PALM rely on external laser control and use of photoactivable fluorescent protein or photoswitchable dyes and are technically challenging. The PAINT method relies on the control of thermal reaction rates to enable the switching between bright and dark states. Therefore, many conventional fluorescent probes can be applied in PAINT method and the images denote different information composed of interactions between the probe and its immediate environment by variations of probe parameters.

The existence of lipid rafts has been under debates for decades due to the lack of a tool to directly visualize them in live cells. In the thesis, we combine PAINT with a phase sensitive dye, Merocyanine 540, to enable nanoscale observation of phase separation on supported lipid bilayers of mixed liquid/gel phases. The imaging results are presented in the chapter 3. Given that this is the first example of visualization of nanoscale phase separation of lipid bilayers using an optical microscope, we further looked into the kinetics of MC540 monomer dimer equilibrium in lipid bilayers using single molecule intensity time trajectory analysis and polarization dependent imaging. Our finding confirms that perpendicular monomeric MC540 (to the membrance surface) is the emitting speices in our system and it stays fluorescent for roughly 3 ms before it switches off to dark states. This part of analysis is presented in the chapter 4. All the materials, procedures to carry out experiments and data analysis, methods involved in our study are briefed in the chapter 2. It was shown that the PAINT method of super-resolution imaging using the dye MC540 is useful for imaging nanoscale phase domains in binary lipid bilayers. The extension of our approach to other binary or ternary lipid model or natural systems provides a promising new super-resolution strategy.