We consider the effect of planar dielectric interfaces (e.g., solid/liquid) on the fluorescence emission of nearby probes. First, we derive an integral expression for the electric field radiated by an oscillating electric dipole when it is close to a dielectric interface. The electric field depends on the refractive indices of the interface, the orientation of the dipole, the distance from the dipole to the interface, and the position of observation. We numerically calculate the electric field intensity for a dipole on an interface, as a function of observation position. These results are applicable to fluorescent molecules excited by the evanescent field of a totally internally reflected laser beam and thus very close to a solid/liquid interface. Next, we derive an integral expression for the electric field radiated when a second dielectric interface is also close to the fluorescent molecule. We numerically calculate this intensity as observed through the second interface. These results are useful when the fluorescence is collected by a high-aperture microscope objective. Finally, we define and calculate a "dichroic factor," which describes the efficiency of collection, in the two-interface system, of polarized fluorescence. The limit when the first interface is removed is applicable for any high-aperture collection of polarized or unpolarized fluorescence. The limit when the second interface is removed has application in the collection of fluorescence with any aperture from molecules close to a dielectric interface. The results of this paper are required for the interpretation of order parameter measurements on fluorescent probes in supported phospholipid monolayers (Thompson, N.L., H. M. McConnell, and T. P. Burghardt, 1984, Biophys. J., 46:739–747).
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