Analysis of single-molecule FRET trajectories using hidden Markov modeling

Biophysical Journal
Sean A McKinneyTaekjip Ha


The analysis of single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) trajectories has become one of significant biophysical interest. In deducing the transition rates between various states of a system for time-binned data, researchers have relied on simple, but often arbitrary methods of extracting rates from FRET trajectories. Although these methods have proven satisfactory in cases of well-separated, low-noise, two- or three-state systems, they become less reliable when applied to a system of greater complexity. We have developed an analysis scheme that casts single-molecule time-binned FRET trajectories as hidden Markov processes, allowing one to determine, based on probability alone, the most likely FRET-value distributions of states and their interconversion rates while simultaneously determining the most likely time sequence of underlying states for each trajectory. Together with a transition density plot and Bayesian information criterion we can also determine the number of different states present in a system in addition to the state-to-state transition probabilities. Here we present the algorithm and test its limitations with various simulated data and previously reported Holliday junction data. The algorithm...Continue Reading


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