Accepted: Precision and accuracy of single-molecule FRET measurements – a worldwide benchmark study

B. Hellenkamp, S. Schmid, O. Doroshenko, O. Opanasyuk, R. Kühnemuth, S. Rezaei Adariani, A. Barth, V. Birkedal, M.E. Bowen, H. Chen, T. Cordes, T. Eilert, C. Fijen, M. Götz, G. Gouridis, E. Gratton, T. Ha, C.A. Hanke, A. Hartmann, J. Hendrix, L.L. Hildebrandt, J. Hohlbein, C.G. Hübner, E. Kallis, A.N. Kapanidis, J.-Y. Kim, G. Krainer, D.C. Lamb, N.K. Lee, E.A. Lemke, B. Levesque, M. Levitus, J.J. McCann, N. Naredi-Rainer, D. Nettels, T. Ngo, R. Qiu, C. Röcker, H. Sanabria, M. Schlierf, B. Schuler, H. Seidel, L. Streit, P. Tinnefeld, S. Tyagi, N. Vandenberk, K.R. Weninger, B. Wünsch, I.S. Yanez-Orozco, J. Michaelis, C.A.M. Seidel, T.D. Craggs, T. Hugel, arXiv, 2017, [link], accepted in Nature Methods

Single-molecule Förster resonance HellenkampArXiv_fig energy transfer (smFRET) is increasingly being used to determine distances, structures, and dynamics of biomolecules in vitro and in vivo. However, generalized protocols and FRET standards ensuring both the reproducibility and accuracy of measuring FRET efficiencies are currently lacking. Here we report the results of a worldwide, comparative, blind study, in which 20 labs determined the FRET efficiencies of several dye-labeled DNA duplexes. Using a unified and straightforward method, we show that FRET efficiencies can be obtained with a standard deviation between ΔE = +-0.02 and +-0.05. We further suggest an experimental and computational procedure for converting FRET efficiencies into accurate distances. We discuss potential uncertainties in the experiment and the modelling. Our extensive quantitative assessment of intensity-based smFRET measurements and correction procedures serve as an essential step towards validation of distance networks with the ultimate aim to archive reliable structural models of biomolecular systems obtained by smFRET-based hybrid methods.

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