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McKelvey School of Engineering

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We report a radially and azimuthally polarized (raPol) microscope for high detection and estimation performance in single-molecule orientation-localization microscopy (SMOLM). With 5000 photons detected from Nile red (NR) transiently bound within supported lipid bilayers (SLBs), raPol SMOLM achieves 2.9 nm localization precision, 1.5° orientation precision, and 0.17 sr precision in estimating rotational wobble. Within DPPC SLBs, SMOLM imaging reveals the existence of randomly oriented binding pockets that prevent NR from freely exploring all orientations. Treating the SLBs with cholesterol-loaded methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MβCD-chol) causes NR’s orientational diffusion to be dramatically reduced, but curiously NR’s median lateral displacements drastically increase from 20.8 to 75.5 nm (200 ms time lag). These jump diffusion events overwhelmingly originate from cholesterol-rich nanodomains within the SLB. These detailed measurements of single-molecule rotational and translational dynamics are made possible by raPol’s high measurement precision and are not detectable in standard SMLM.


This document is the Accepted Manuscript version of a Published Work that appeared in final form in Nano Lett., copyright © 2022 American Chemical Society after peer review and technical editing by the publisher. To access the final edited and published work see