SPFI (single-particle fluorescence imaging) uses the high sensitivity of fluorescence to visualize individual molecules that have been selectively labelled with small fluorescent particles. The images of particles are diffraction-limited spots that are analysed by fitting with a two-dimensional Gaussian function. The spot intensities depend on whether they arise from one or more particles; this provides the basis for determining self-association of cell-surface receptors. We have used this approach to determine dimerization of MHC class II molecules and its disruption by interface peptides. We have also exploited the positional information obtained from SPFI to detect co-localization of cell-surface molecules. This involves labelling two different molecules with different coloured fluorophores and determining their positions separately by dual wavelength imaging. The images are analysed to quantify the overlap of the particle images and hence determine the extent of co-localization of the labelled molecules. The technique provides quantification of the extent of co-localization and can detect whether co-localized molecules occur singly or in clusters. We have obtained preliminary data for co-localization of lipopolysaccharide and CD14 on intact cells. We also show that HLA-DR (human leukocyte antigen-DR) and CD74 are partially co-localized and that interaction between these molecules involves the peptide-binding groove of HLA-DR.

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