Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Emerging Methods for Single Cell Metabolomics
by Zhang, Linwen, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2018, 252; 10746962
Abstract (Summary)

Single cell metabolomics provides new insights into understanding cellular heterogeneity of small molecules, and individual cell response to environmental perturbations. With high sensitivity and specificity, mass spectrometry (MS) has become an important tool for analyzing metabolites, lipids, and peptides in individual cells. Facing significant challenges, single cell and subcellular analysis by MS requires technical advances to answer fundamental biological questions, for example the phenotypic variations of genetically identical cells. The work presented in this dissertation describes my efforts to develop and apply capillary microsampling MS with ion mobility separation (IMS) for the analysis of single cells and subcellular compartments.

Chapter 1 introduces MS based analytical techniques for single cell and subcellular analysis. Recent advances of sampling and ionization methods for MS analysis of volume-limited samples are reviewed with emphasis on ambient ionization techniques, cell micromanipulation methods, and rapid gas phase separations.

In Chapter 2, the application of capillary microsampling electrospray ionization (ESI)-IMS-MS for metabolic and lipidomic analysis of single Arabidopsis thaliana epidermal cells is presented. Distinct metabolite compositions and metabolic pathways are identified among basal and pavement cells, and trichomes. These three specialized epidermal cells serve different functions in the plant leaf, and our single cell MS data reveals the corresponding metabolic pathways.

In Chapter 3, it describes the utilization of capillary microsampling ESI-IMS-MS for the analysis of metabolites and lipids in single human hepatocellular carcinoma cells. Cellular physiological states and their heterogeneity in response to xenobiotics treatment, and lipid turnover rates are explored. Here, IMS helps to enhance molecular coverage, facilitate metabolite and lipid identification, resolve isobaric ions, and minimize background interference. Comparing cells affected by metabolic modulators to unaffected counterparts reveals dramatic reduction in the availability of energy in the former.

In Chapter 4, the combination of fluorescence microscopy with capillary microsampling ESI-IMS-MS for selective analysis of identified cell subpopulations at a single cell level is demonstrated. Molecular differences and heterogeneity corresponding to cells in distinct mitotic stages are explored. Pairwise correlations between relative metabolite levels among individual mitotic cells are also studied.

In Chapter 5, the subcellular distributions of neuropeptides in individual identified neurons are explored by capillary microsampling ESI-IMS-MS. Distinct peptide distributions between the cytoplasm and nucleus are revealed. Mass spectra provide direct evidence for high abundance of these peptides in the nucleus despite the scarcity of immunostaining results supporting their presence there. A new neuropeptide is discovered and sequenced by MS in a single cell.

In Chapter 6, the current state of single cell and subcellular metabolomics is discussed. Major challenges include the low-throughput of current sampling techniques, low molecular coverage of metabolites, lipids and peptides, and external perturbations introduced by the sampling and ionization processes. In addition to exploring new solutions to these challenges, future advances will lead to the development of systems biology at the single cell level, to nano- and micro-fabricated tools to study perturbations in a lab-in-a-cell framework, and to coupling with optical manipulations and microfluidic techniques to investigate subcellular heterogeneity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Vertes, Akos
Commitee: Licht, Stuart, Massiah, Michael, Nemes, Peter, Rodriguez, Erik A.
School: The George Washington University
Department: Chemistry
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-B 79/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Chemistry, Analytical chemistry
Keywords: Mass spectrometry, Metabolomics, Single cell analysis, Subcellular analysis
Publication Number: 10746962
ISBN: 978-0-355-83020-0
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