, Volume 19, Issue 8, pp 1230-1236

Preparation of single cells for imaging/profiling mass spectrometry


Characterizing chemical changes within individual cells is important for determining fundamental mechanisms of biological processes that will lead to new biological insights and improved disease understanding. Analyzing biological systems with imaging and profiling mass spectrometry (MS) has gained popularity in recent years as a method for creating chemical maps of biological samples. To obtain mass spectra that provide relevant molecular information about individual cells, samples must be prepared so that salts and other cell culture components are removed from the cell surface and that the cell contents are rendered accessible to the desorption beam. We have designed a cellular preparation protocol for imaging/profiling MS that removes the majority of the interfering species derived from the cellular growth medium, preserves the basic morphology of the cells, and allows chemical profiling of the diffusible elements of the cytosol. Using this method, we are able to reproducibly analyze cells from three diverse cell types: MCF7 human breast cancer cells, Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells, and NIH/3T3 mouse fibroblasts. This preparation technique makes possible routine imaging/profiling MS analysis of individual cultured cells, allowing for understanding of molecular processes within individual cells.

Published online May 17, 2008