Single cell analysis by mass spectrometry

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Depending on age, phase in the cell cycle, nutrition, and environmental factors, individual cells exhibit large metabolic diversity. To explore metabolic variations in cell populations, laser ablation electrospray ionization (LAESI) mass spectrometry (MS) is used for the in situ analysis of individual cells at atmospheric pressure. The single cell version of the LAESI technique, developed in our laboratory for in situ cell analysis, samples the entire volume of the cells for metabolites and lipid components with relative quantitation capabilities. Our preliminary experiments conducted directly on tissue embedded plant epidermal cells, as well as on single unfertilized eggs from sea urchin have revealed that LAESI-MS detects numerous metabolites and lipids from unprocessed samples. In case of cell pigmentation, the metabolite composition correlates with the color and the age of cells and reflects the corresponding differences in the metabolic pathways. Metabolic profiling of single cells can help to understand cellular heterogeneity and its relationship to drug resistance.


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118/ B. Shrestha and A. Vertes, “Direct Analysis of Single Cells by Mass Spectrometry at Atmospheric Pressure,” J. Visualized Experiments, 2010, 43,
Download a PDF of the protocol.

115/ B. Shrestha, P. Nemes and A. Vertes, “Ablation and analysis of small cell populations and single cells by consecutive laser pulses,” Appl. Phys. A, 2010, 101, 121-126.

110/ B. Shrestha and A. Vertes, “In Situ Metabolic Profiling of Single Cells by Laser Ablation Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry,” Anal. Chem., 2009, 81, 8265-8271. Supporting information.