Metabolic trajectory of cellular differentiation in small intestine by Phasor Fluorescence Lifetime Microscopy of NADH

Sci Rep. 2012;2:568. doi: 10.1038/srep00568. Epub 2012 Aug 10.


There is a lack of fast and high resolution methods to measure metabolic activity of single cells in their native environment. Here we develop a straightforward, non-invasive and sensitive method to measure metabolic phenotype of single cells in a live tissue. By using NADH as optical biomarker and the phasor approach to Fluorescence Lifetime microscopy (FLIM) we identify cellular metabolic fingerprints related to different rates of oxidative phosphorylation and glycolysis. For the first time we measure a three dimensional metabolic gradient in the small intestine (SI) epithelia that appears tightly associated with epithelial cell proliferation, differentiation and the Wnt gradient. The highest free/bound NADH ratios are measured at the base of the crypt within the highly proliferative stem cells, indicating high levels of glycolysis. For the first time mouse small intestinal stem cells in intact live crypts are identified within the tissue by their metabolic fingerprint.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Tracking / methods*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestine, Small / cytology*
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • NAD / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • NAD