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Rapid, Untargeted Chemical Profiling of Single Cells in Their Native Environment...

by John F Cahill, Julian Riba, Vilmos Kertesz
Publication Type
Journal Name
Analytical Chemistry
Publication Date
Page Numbers
6118 to 6126

We report a method that enables untargeted, high throughput, and quantitative mass spectrometric analysis of single cells from cell suspension without needing additional sample preparation procedures (e.g., molecular tagging) through the combination of single-cell printer technology and liquid vortex capture–mass spectrometry (SCP-LVC-MS). The operating principle behind the SCP-LVC-MS technology is single cell isolation via small droplet piezoelectric ejection followed by capture of the droplet into an LVC-MS sampling probe. Once exposed to an appropriate solvent, the cell is lysed, extracted, and analyzed by MS. The SCP-LVC-MS approach was validated by measuring the lipid composition of microalgae, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (ChRe) and Euglena gracilis (EuGr), and HeLa cells in their native growth media. Numerous diacylglyceryltrimethylhomo-Ser (DGTS), phosphatidylcholine (PC), monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGDG), and digalactosyldiacylglycerol (DGDG) lipids were observed in single cells. Continuous solvent flow ensures that cells are analyzed rapidly, and no signal carryover between cells is observed. ChRe and EuGr microalgae mixed together in the same solution were differentiated cell-by-cell in real-time based on differences between levels of diacylglyceryltrimethylhomo-Ser (DGTS) and phosphatidylcholine (PC) lipids measured in each cell. Several DGTS lipids present in ChRe were quantified with single-cell resolution by normalizing to a DGTS(32:0) internal standard added to the LVC probe solvent during analysis. Quantitative peak areas were validated by comparing to bulk lipid extracts. Lastly, peak area distributions comprised of hundreds of cells were compared for ChRe after 5 days of nitrogen-limited and normal growth conditions, which show clear differences and the ability to resolve cellular population differences with single-cell resolution.