Preparation of single cells for imaging mass spectrometry

Elena S F Berman, Susan L. Fortson, Kristen S. Kulp

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Characterizing the molecular contents of individual cells is critical for understanding fundamental mechanisms of biological processes. Imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) of biological systems has been steadily gaining popularity for its ability to create precise chemical images of biological samples, thereby revealing new biological insights and improving understanding of disease. In order to acquire mass spectral images from single cells that contain relevant molecular information, samples must be prepared such that cell-culture components, especially salts, are eliminated from the cell surface and that the cell contents are accessible to the mass spectrometer. We have demonstrated a cellular preparation technique for IMS that preserves the basic morphology of cultured cells, allows mass spectrometric chemical profiling of cytosol, and removes the majority of the interfering species derived from the cellular growth medium. Using this protocol, we achieve high-quality, reproducible IMS images from three diverse cell types: MCF7 human breast cancer cells, Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells, and NIH/3T3 mouse fibroblasts. This preparation method allows rapid and routine IMS analysis of cultured cells, making possible a wide variety of experiments to further scientific understanding of molecular processes within individual cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMethods in Molecular Biology
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameMethods in Molecular Biology
ISSN (Print)10643745


  • biological imaging
  • imaging mass spectrometry
  • molecular profiling
  • single cells
  • ToF-SIMS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Medicine(all)


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