Cell-to-cell chemical signaling plays multiple roles in coordinating the activity of the functional elements of an organism, with these elements ranging from a three-neuron reflex circuit to the entire animal. In recent years, single-cell mass spectrometry (MS) has enabled the discovery of cell-to-cell signaling molecules from the nervous system of a number of invertebrates. We describe a protocol for analyzing individual cells from rat pituitary using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization MS. Each step in the sample preparation process, including cell stabilization, isolation, sample preparation, signal acquisition and data interpretation, is detailed here. Although we employ this method to investigate peptides in individual pituitary cells, it can be adapted to other cell types and even subcellular sections from a range of animals. This protocol allows one to obtain 20-30 individual cell samples and acquire mass spectra from them in a single day.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1987-1997
Number of pages11
JournalNature Protocols
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Characterizing peptides in individual mammalian cells using mass spectrometry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this