Secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging of molecular distributions in cultured neurons and their processes: Comparative analysis of sample preparation

Kevin R. Tucker, Zhen Li, Stanislav S. Rubakhin, Jonathan V. Sweedler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Neurons often exhibit a complex chemical distribution and topography; therefore, sample preparation protocols that preserve structures ranging from relatively large cell somata to small neurites and growth cones are important factors in secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) imaging studies. Here, SIMS was used to investigate the subcellular localization of lipids and lipophilic species in neurons from Aplysia californica. Using individual neurons cultured on silicon wafers, we compared and optimized several SIMS sampling approaches. After an initial step to remove the high salt culturing media, formaldehyde, paraformaldehyde, and glycerol, and various combinations thereof, were tested for their ability to achieve cell stabilization during and after the removal of extracellular media. These treatments improved the preservation of cellular morphology as visualized with SIMS imaging. For analytes 9250 Da, coating the cell surface with a 3.2 nm-thick gold layer increased the ion intensity; multiple analytes previously not observed or observed at low abundance were detected, including intact cholesterol and vitamin E molecular ions. However, once a sample was coated, many of the lower molecular mass (<200 Da) analyte signals were suppressed. The optimum approach depended on the analyte being studied; the approaches evaluated included rinsing with water and cell stabilization with glycerol and 4 % paraformaldehyde. The sample preparation methods described here enhance SIMS imaging of processes of individual cultured neurons over a broad mass range with enhanced image contrast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1931-1938
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Volume23
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012

Keywords

  • Aplysia
  • Cell culture
  • Lipids
  • Mass spectrometry imaging
  • Secondary ion mass spectrometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Spectroscopy

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