J Neurosci Methods 2002 Jul;118(1):63-75
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Center for Fluorescence Spectroscopy, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 108 N. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.
Mounting evidence indicates that zinc has multiple roles in cell biology, viz. as a part of metalloenzyme catalytic sites, as a structural component of gene regulatory proteins, and (like calcium) as a free signal ion, particularly in the cortex of the brain. While most Zn(II) in the brain is tightly bound, such that free Zn(II) levels extracellularly and intracellularly are likely to be picomolar, a subset of glutamatergic neurons possess weakly bound zinc in presynaptic boutons which is released at micromolar levels in response to a variety of stimuli. Key to further progress in understanding the multiple roles of zinc will be the availability of fluorescent indicator systems that will permit quantitative determination and imaging of zinc fluxes and levels over a broad concentration range both intracellularly and extracellularly using fluorescence microscopy. Towards that end, we have compared a variety of fluorescent indicators for their sensitivity to Zn(II) and Cu(II), selectivity for Zn(II) in the presence of potential interferents such as Ca(II) or Mg(II), and potential for quantitative imaging. The commercially available probes Fura-2, Mag-Fura-5, Newport Green DCF, and FuraZin-1 were compared with the carbonic anhydrase-based indicator systems for selectivity and sensitivity. In addition, intracellular levels of Zn following excitotoxic insult were determined by single pixel fluorescence lifetime microscopy of Newport Green DCF, and extracellular levels of free zinc following stimulus of rat hippocampal slices were determined ratiometrically with a carbonic anhydrase-based indicator system. These results suggest that zinc ion at high nM to microM levels can be accurately quantitated by FuraZin-1 ratiometrically or by Newport Green DCF by fluorescence lifetime; and at levels down to pM by intensity ratio, lifetime, or polarization using carbonic anhydrase-based systems.