The ability to characterize chemical heterogeneity in biological structures is essential to understanding cellular-level function in both healthy and diseased states, but these variations remain difficult to assess using a single analytical technique. While mass spectrometry (MS) provides sufficient sensitivity to measure many analytes from volume-limited samples, each type of mass spectrometric analysis uncovers only a portion of the complete chemical profile of a single cell. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) MS and capillary electrophoresis electrospray ionization (CE-ESI)-MS are complementary analytical platforms frequently utilized for single-cell analysis. Optically guided MALDI MS provides a high-throughput assessment of lipid and peptide content for large populations of cells, but is typically nonquantitative and fails to detect many low-mass metabolites because of MALDI matrix interferences. CE-ESI-MS allows quantitative measurements of cellular metabolites and increased analyte coverage, but has lower throughput because the electrophoretic separation is relatively slow. In this work, the figures of merit for each technique are combined via an off-line method that interfaces the two MS systems with a custom liquid microjunction surface sampling probe. The probe is mounted on an xyz translational stage, providing 90.6 ± 0.6% analyte removal efficiency with a spatial targeting accuracy of 42.8 ± 2.3 μm. The analyte extraction footprint is an elliptical area with a major diameter of 422 ± 21 μm and minor diameter of 335 ± 27 μm. To validate the approach, single rat pancreatic islet cells were rapidly analyzed with optically guided MALDI MS to classify each cell into established cell types by their peptide content. After MALDI MS analysis, a majority of the analyte remains for follow-up measurements to extend the overall chemical coverage. Optically guided MALDI MS was used to identify individual pancreatic islet α and β cells, which were then targeted for liquid microjunction extraction. Extracts from single α and β cells were analyzed with CE-ESI-MS to obtain qualitative information on metabolites, including amino acids. Matching the molecular masses and relative migration times of the extracted analytes and related standards allowed identification of several amino acids. Interestingly, dopamine was consistently detected in both cell types. The results demonstrate the successful interface of optical microscopy-guided MALDI MS and CE-ESI-MS for sequential chemical profiling of individual, mammalian cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry