Single cell metabolome analysis is essential for studying microscale life phenomena such as neuronal networks and tumor microenvironments. Capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry (CE-MS) is one of the most sensitive technologies; however, its sensitivity is still not enough for single cell analysis on general human cells such as HeLa. To address these issues, we first developed an efficient ionization emitter, named as a "nanoCESI" emitter, that had a thin-walled (∼10 μm) and tapered (5-10 μm) end. The thin conductive wall enabled sheathless ionization and minimized the flow rate of ionizing sample, and the tapered end efficiently ionized analytes via an electrospray ionization mechanism, providing up to 3.5-fold increase in sensitivity compared with a conventional sheathless emitter. Fifty repetitive analyses on 20 amino acids were successfully achieved with a nanoCESI emitter. Relative standard deviations of 50 analyses were 1.5%, 4.4%, and 6.8% for migration time, peak height, and peak area, respectively, where a limit of detection (LOD) of 170 pM (850 zmol) was achieved. Second, a sample enrichment method, large-volume dual preconcentration by isotachophoresis and stacking (LDIS), was applied to a newly designed protocol of nanoCESI-MS. This approach achieved up to 380-fold enhanced sensitivity and LOD of 450 fM. Compared with normal sheathless CE-MS, coupling of nanoCESI and LDIS provided up to 800-fold increase of sensitivity in total. Finally, metabolome analyses of single HeLa cells were performed, where 20 amino acids were successfully quantified with triple-quadrupole MS and 40 metabolites were identified with quadrupole-time-of-flight MS, as a promising analytical platform for microscale bioanalysis for the next generation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Analytical Chemistry