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Anal Bioanal Chem. 2010 Nov;398(6):2493-504. doi: 10.1007/s00216-010-3850-1. Epub 2010 Jun 11.

Analytical techniques for single-cell metabolomics: state of the art and trends.

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Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland.


Single-cell metabolomics is an emerging field that addresses fundamental biological questions and allows one to observe metabolic phenomena in heterogeneous populations of single cells. In this review, we assess the suitability of different detection techniques and present considerations on sample preparation for single-cell metabolomics. Although targeted analysis of single cells can readily be conducted using fluorescent probes and optical instruments (microscopes, fluorescence detectors), a comprehensive metabolomic approach requires a powerful label-free method, such as mass spectrometry (MS). Mass-spectrometric techniques applied to study small molecules in single cells include electrospray MS, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization MS, and secondary ion MS. Sample preparation is an important aspect to be taken into account during further development of methods for single-cell metabolomics.

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