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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 7;9(1):e84478. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084478. eCollection 2014.

Visualizing cell state transition using Raman spectroscopy.

Author information

  • 1Quantitative Biology Center, Riken, Suita, Osaka, Japan.
  • 2Department of Applied Physics, Osaka University, Suita, Osaka, Japan.
  • 3Department of Applied Physics, Osaka University, Suita, Osaka, Japan ; Nanophotonics Laboratory, Riken, Wako, Saitama, Japan.
  • 4Quantitative Biology Center, Riken, Suita, Osaka, Japan ; Immunology Frontier Research Center, Osaka University, Suita, Osaka, Japan.


System level understanding of the cell requires detailed description of the cell state, which is often characterized by the expression levels of proteins. However, understanding the cell state requires comprehensive information of the cell, which is usually obtained from a large number of cells and their disruption. In this study, we used Raman spectroscopy, which can report changes in the cell state without introducing any label, as a non-invasive method with single cell capability. Significant differences in Raman spectra were observed at the levels of both the cytosol and nucleus in different cell-lines from mouse, indicating that Raman spectra reflect differences in the cell state. Difference in cell state was observed before and after the induction of differentiation in neuroblastoma and adipocytes, showing that Raman spectra can detect subtle changes in the cell state. Cell state transitions during embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation were visualized when Raman spectroscopy was coupled with principal component analysis (PCA), which showed gradual transition in the cell states during differentiation. Detailed analysis showed that the diversity between cells are large in undifferentiated ESC and in mesenchymal stem cells compared with terminally differentiated cells, implying that the cell state in stem cells stochastically fluctuates during the self-renewal process. The present study strongly indicates that Raman spectral morphology, in combination with PCA, can be used to establish cells' fingerprints, which can be useful for distinguishing and identifying different cellular states.

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