A novel computational framework for D(t) from Fluorescence Recovery after Photobleaching data reveals various anomalous diffusion types in live cell membranes

Minchul Kang, Charles A. Day, Anne K. Kenworthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Diffusion of proteins and lipids in lipid membranes plays a pivotal role in almost all aspects of cellular biology, including motility, exo−/endocytosis and signal transduction. For this reason, gaining a detailed understanding of membrane structure and function has long been a major area of cell biology research. To better elucidate this structure-function relationship, various tools have been developed for diffusion measurements, including Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching (FRAP). Because of the complexity of cellular microenvironments, biological diffusion is often correlated over time and described by a time-dependent diffusion coefficient, D(t), although the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Since D(t) provides important information regarding cellular structures, such as the existence of subresolution barriers to diffusion, many efforts have been made to quantify D(t) by FRAP assuming a single power law, D(t) = Γtα − 1 where Γ and α are transport coefficient and anomalous exponent. However, straightforward approaches to quantify a general form of D(t) are lacking. In this study, we develop a novel mathematical and computational framework to compute the mean square displacement of diffusing molecules and diffusion coefficient D(t) from each individual time point of confocal FRAP data without the single power law assumption. Additionally, we developed an auxiliary equation for D(t) which can readily distinguish normal diffusion or single power law anomalous diffusion from other types of anomalous diffusion directly from FRAP data. Importantly, by applying this approach to FRAP data from a variety of membrane markers, we demonstrate the single power law anomalous diffusion assumption is not sufficient to describe various types of D(t) of membrane proteins. Lastly, we discuss how our new approaches can be applied to other fluorescence microscopy tools such as Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS) and Single Particle Tracking (SPT).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)867-880
Number of pages14
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by TAMUC Faculty development grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching
  • analytic formula
  • anomalous diffusion
  • membrane proteins
  • quantitative analysis
  • time-dependent diffusion coefficients


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