In vivo lipidomics using single-cell Raman spectroscopy


Huawen Wu, Joanne V. Volponia, Ann E. Oliver, Atul N. Parikh, Blake Simmons, and Seema Singh, PNAS 108, 3809-3814 2011

We describe a method for direct, quantitative, in vivo lipid profiling of oil-producing microalgae using single-cell laser-trapping Raman spectroscopy. This approach is demonstrated in the quantitative determination of the degree of unsaturation and transition temperatures of constituent lipids within microalgae. These properties are important markers for determining engine compatibility and performance metrics of algal biodiesel. We show that these factors can be directly measured from a single living microalgal cell held in place with an optical trap while simultaneously collecting Raman data. Cellular response to different growth conditions is monitored in real time. Our approach circumvents the need for lipid extraction and analysis that is both slow and invasive. Furthermore, this technique yields real-time chemical information in a label-free manner, thus eliminating the limitations of impermeability, toxicity, and specificity of the fluorescent probes common in currently used protocols. Although the single-cell Raman spectroscopy demonstrated here is focused on the study of the microalgal lipids with biofuel applications, the analytical capability and quantitation algorithms demonstrated are applicable to many different organisms and should prove useful for a diverse range of applications in lipidomics.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1009043108