Permeant cationic fluorescent probes are widely employed to monitor mitochondrial transmembrane potential and its changes. The application of such potential-dependent probes in conjunction with both fluorescence microscopy and fluorescence spectroscopy allows the monitoring of mitochondrial membrane potential in individual living cells as well as in large population of cells. These approaches to the analysis of membrane potential is of extremely high value to obtain insights into both the basic energy metabolism and its dysfunction in pathologic cells. However, the use of fluorescent molecules to probe biological phenomena must follow the awareness of some principles of fluorescence emission, quenching, and quantum yield since it is a very sensitive tool, but because of this extremely high sensitivity it is also strongly affected by the environment. In addition, the instruments used to monitor fluorescence and its changes in biological systems have also to be employed with cautions due to technical limits that may affect the signals. We have therefore undertaken to review the most currently used analytical methods, providing a summary of practical tips that should precede data acquisition and subsequent analysis. Furthermore, we discuss the application and feasibility of various techniques and discuss their respective strength and weakness.

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