Humpolickova, J., Benda, A. and Enderlein, J.
Optical saturation as a versatile tool to enhance resolution in confocal microscopy. Biophysical Journal 97: 2623-2629 (2009).

One of the most actively developing areas in fluorescence microscopy is the achievement of spatial resolution below Abbe's diffraction limit, which restricts the resolution to several hundreds of nanometers. Most of the approaches in use at this time require a complex optical setup, a difficult mathematical treatment, or usage of dyes with special photophysical properties. In this work, we present a new, to our knowledge, approach in confocal microscopy that enhances the resolution moderately but is both technically and computationally simple. As it is based on the saturation of the transition from the ground state to the first excited state, it is universally applicable with respect to the dye used. The idea of the method presented is based on a principle similar to that underlying saturation excitation microscopy, but instead of applying harmonically modulated excitation light, the fluorophores are excited by picosecond laser pulses at different intensities, resulting in different levels of saturation. We show that the method can be easily combined with the concept of triplet relaxation, which by tuning the dark periods between pulses helps to suppress the formation of a photolabile triplet state and effectively reduces photobleaching. We demonstrate our approach imaging GFP-labeled protein patches within the plasma membrane of yeast cells.