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Anal Chem. 2016 Jul 5;88(13):6812-9. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b01284. Epub 2016 Jun 14.

Using Dicationic Ion-Pairing Compounds To Enhance the Single Cell Mass Spectrometry Analysis Using the Single-Probe: A Microscale Sampling and Ionization Device.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Oklahoma , Norman, Oklahoma 73019, United States.


A unique mass spectrometry (MS) method has been developed to determine the negatively charged species in live single cells using the positive ionization mode. The method utilizes dicationic ion-pairing compounds through the miniaturized multifunctional device, the single-probe, for reactive MS analysis of live single cells under ambient conditions. In this study, two dicationic reagents, 1,5-pentanediyl-bis(1-butylpyrrolidinium) difluoride (C5(bpyr)2F2) and 1,3-propanediyl-bis(tripropylphosphonium) difluoride (C3(triprp)2F2), were added in the solvent and introduced into single cells to extract cellular contents for real-time MS analysis. The negatively charged (1- charged) cell metabolites, which form stable ion-pairs (1+ charged) with dicationic compounds (2+ charged), were detected in positive ionization mode with a greatly improved sensitivity. We have tentatively assigned 192 and 70 negatively charged common metabolites as adducts with (C5(bpyr)2F2) and (C3(triprp)2F2), respectively, in three separate SCMS experiments in the positive ion mode. The total number of tentatively assigned metabolites is 285 for C5(bpyr)2F2 and 143 for C3(triprp)2F2. In addition, the selectivity of dicationic compounds in the complex formation allows for the discrimination of overlapped ion peaks with low abundances. Tandem (MS/MS) analyses at the single cell level were conducted for selected adduct ions for molecular identification. The utilization of the dicationic compounds in the single-probe MS technique provides an effective approach to the detection of a broad range of metabolites at the single cell level.

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