A microchip electrophoresis-mass spectrometric platform with double cell lysis nano-electrodes for automated single cell analysis

Capillary electrophoresis-based single cell analysis has become an essential approach in researches at the cellular level. However, automation of single cell analysis has been a challenge due to the difficulty to control the number of cells injected and the irreproducibility associated with cell aggregation. Herein we report the development of a new microfluidic platform deploying the double nano-electrode cell lysis technique for automated analysis of single cells with mass spectrometric detection. The proposed microfluidic chip features integration of a cell-sized high voltage zone for quick single cell lysis, a microfluidic channel for electrophoretic separation, and a nanoelectrospray emitter for ionization in MS detection. Built upon this platform, a microchip electrophoresis-mass spectrometric method (MCE-MS) has been developed for automated single cell analysis. In the method, cell introduction, cell lysis, and MCE-MS separation are computer controlled and integrated as a cycle into consecutive assays. Analysis of large numbers of individual PC-12 neuronal cells (both intact and exposed to 25 mM KCl) was carried out to determine intracellular levels of dopamine (DA) and glutamic acid (Glu). It was found that DA content in PC-12 cells was higher than Glu content, and both varied from cell to cell. The ratio of intracellular DA to Glu was 4.20 ± 0.8 (n = 150). Interestingly, the ratio drastically decreased to 0.38 ± 0.20 (n = 150) after the cells are exposed to 25 mM KCl for 8 min, suggesting the cells released DA promptly and heavily while they released Glu at a much slower pace in response to KCl-induced depolarization. These results indicate that the proposed MCE-MS analytical platform may have a great potential in researches at the cellular level.

Li, Xiangtang, Shulin Zhao, Hankun Hu, Yi-Ming Liu

Journal of Chromatography A





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