Application of fluorescence resonance energy transfer in the clinical laboratory: Routine and research

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168 Citations (Scopus)


Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) phenomenon has been applied to a variety of scientific challenges in the past. The potential utility of this biophysical tool will be revisited in the 21st century. The rapid digital signal processing in conjunction with personal computers and the wide use of multicolor laser technology in clinical flow cytometry opened an opportunity for multiplexed assay systems. The concept is very simple. Color-coded microspheres are used as solid-phase matrix for the detection of fluorescent labeled molecules. It is the homogeneous assay methodology in which solid-phase particles behave similarly to the dynamics of a liquid environment. This approach offers a rapid cost-effective technology that harnesses a wide variety of fluorochromes and lasers. With this microsphere technology, the potential applications for clinical flow cytometry in the future are enormous. This new approach of well-established clinically proven methods sets the stage to briefly review the theoretical and practical aspects of FRET technology. The review shows various applications of FRET in research and clinical laboratories. Combination of FRET with monoclonal antibodies resulted in a boom of structural analysis of proteins in solutions and also in biological membranes. Cell surface mapping of cluster of differentiation molecules on immunocompetent cells has gained more and more interest in the last decade. Several examples for biological applications are discussed in detail. FRET can also be used to improve the spectral characteristics of fluorescent dyes and dye combinations, such as the tandem dyes in flow and image cytometry and the FRET primers in DNA sequencing and polymerase chain reactions. The advantages and disadvantages of donor- acceptor dye combinations are evaluated. In addition, the sensitivity of FRET provides the basis for establishing fast, robust, and accurate enzyme assays and immunoassays. Benefits and limitations and FRET-based assays are thoroughly scrutinized. At the end of the paper we review the future of FRET methodology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-179
Number of pages21
JournalCommunications in Clinical Cytometry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 1998


  • Cell surface mapping
  • DNA sequencing
  • Enzyme assay
  • Fluorescence resonance energy transfer
  • Immunoassays
  • Tandem dyes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Biophysics
  • Hematology
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology

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