Single-cell metabolomics provides information on the biochemical state of an individual cell and its relationship with the surrounding environment. Characterization of metabolic cellular heterogeneity is challenging, in part due to the small amounts of analytes and their wide dynamic concentration ranges within individual cells. CE-ESI-MS is well suited to single-cell assays because of its low sample-volume requirements and low detection limits. While the volume of a cell is in the picoliter range, after isolation, the typical volume of the lysed cell sample is on the order of a microliter; however, only nanoliters are injected into the CE system, with the volume mismatch limiting analytical performance. Here we developed an approach for the detection of intracellular metabolites from a single neuron using field amplified sample injection (FASI) CE-ESI-MS. Through the application of FASI, we achieved 100- to 300-fold detection limit enhancement compared to hydrodynamic injections. We further enhanced the analyte identification and quantification accuracy via introduction of two internal standards. As a result, the relative standard deviations of migration times were reduced to <5%, aiding identification. Finally, we successfully applied FASI CE-ESI-MS to the untargeted profiling of metabolites of Aplysia californica pleural sensory neurons with <50 μm diameter cell somata. As a result, twenty one neurotransmitters and metabolites have been quantified in these neurons.
- Capillary electrophoresis electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry
- Field amplified sample injection
- Single-cell metabolomics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry
- Environmental Chemistry