Single-Cell Mass Spectrometry Reveals Changes in Lipid and Metabolite Expression in RAW 264.7 Cells upon Lipopolysaccharide Stimulation.
It has been widely recognized that individual cells that exist within a large population of cells, even if they are genetically identical, can have divergent molecular makeups resulting from a variety of factors, including local environmental factors and stochastic processes within each cell. Presently, numerous approaches have been described that permit the resolution of these single-cell expression differences for RNA and protein; however, relatively few techniques exist for the study of lipids and metabolites in this manner. This study presents a methodology for the analysis of metabolite and lipid expression at the level of a single cell through the use of imaging mass spectrometry on a high-performance Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer. This report provides a detailed description of the overall experimental approach, including sample preparation as well as the data acquisition and analysis strategy for single cells. Applying this approach to the study of cultured RAW264.7 cells, we demonstrate that this method can be used to study the variation in molecular expression with cell populations and is sensitive to alterations in that expression that occurs upon lipopolysaccharide stimulation. Graphical Abstract.