Vogelsang, J., Cordes, T., Forthmann, C., Steinhauer, C. and Tinnefeld, P.
Controlling the fluorescence of ordinary oxazine dyes for single-molecule switching and superresolution microscopy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 106: 8107-8112 (2009).

Fluorescent molecular switches have widespread potential for use as sensors, material applications in electro-optical data storages and displays, and superresolution fluorescence microscopy. We demonstrate that adjustment of fluorophore properties and environmental conditions allows the use of ordinary fluorescent dyes as efficient single-molecule switches that report sensitively on their local redox condition. Adding or removing reductant or oxidant, switches the fluorescence of oxazine dyes between stable fluorescent and nonfluorescent states. At low oxygen concentrations, the off-state that we ascribe to a radical anion is thermally stable with a lifetime in the minutes range. The molecular switches show a remarkable reliability with intriguing fatigue resistance at the single-molecule level: Depending on the switching rate, between 400 and 3,000 switching cycles are observed before irreversible photodestruction occurs. A detailed picture of the underlying photoinduced and redox reactions is elaborated. In the presence of both reductant and oxidant, continuous switching is manifested by “blinking” with independently controllable on- and off-state lifetimes in both deoxygenated and oxygenated environments. This “continuous switching mode” is advantageously used for imaging actin filament and actin filament bundles in fixed cells with subdiffraction-limited resolution.