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Biotechniques. 1999 Feb;26(2):328-35.

Laser capture microdissection of single cells from complex tissues.

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National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Laser capture microdissection (LCM) is a new method used to select and procure cell clusters from tissue sections. Once captured, the DNA, RNA or protein can be easily extracted from the isolated cells and analyzed by conventional PCR, reverse transcription (RT)-PCR or polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, including protein zymography for specific macromolecular changes. In LCM, a thermoplastic polymer coating [ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA)] attached to a rigid support is placed in contact with a tissue section. The EVA polymer over microscopically selected cell clusters is precisely activated by a near-infrared laser pulse and then bonds to the targeted area. Removal of the EVA and its support from the tissue section procures the selected cell aggregates for molecular analysis. This initial NIH LCM approach using a flat transfer EVA film has been recently commercialized and has proven to be an effective routine microdissection technique for subsequent macromolecular analysis in many laboratories around the world. However, reliable and precise capture of individual cells from tissue sections has been difficult to perform with the current LCM instruments. In this report, we describe the capture of individual cells with a new NIH LCM microscope, which epi-irradiates the EVA polymer overlying individual cells with 1-ms laser pulses focused to 6 microns. A computer-controlled arm precisely positions a 40-micron-wide strip of a cylindrical EVA surface onto a sample with a light contact force (ca. 0.1 g). The small contact force and contact area on the film on the sample diminishes nonspecific transfer to negligible levels. By slightly rotating the cylinder to provide a renewable transfer surface, concentration of a distinct cell type on a single cylinder is possible. Using this novel adaptation, we demonstrate the rapid and practical capture of single cells from different types of tissue sections, including immunostained cells.

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