Vibrational imaging of newly synthesized proteins in live cells by stimulated Raman scattering microscopy

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jul 9;110(28):11226-31. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1303768110. Epub 2013 Jun 24.


Synthesis of new proteins, a key step in the central dogma of molecular biology, has been a major biological process by which cells respond rapidly to environmental cues in both physiological and pathological conditions. However, the selective visualization of a newly synthesized proteome in living systems with subcellular resolution has proven to be rather challenging, despite the extensive efforts along the lines of fluorescence staining, autoradiography, and mass spectrometry. Herein, we report an imaging technique to visualize nascent proteins by harnessing the emerging stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy coupled with metabolic incorporation of deuterium-labeled amino acids. As a first demonstration, we imaged newly synthesized proteins in live mammalian cells with high spatial-temporal resolution without fixation or staining. Subcellular compartments with fast protein turnover in HeLa and HEK293T cells, and newly grown neurites in differentiating neuron-like N2A cells, are clearly identified via this imaging technique. Technically, incorporation of deuterium-labeled amino acids is minimally perturbative to live cells, whereas SRS imaging of exogenous carbon-deuterium bonds (C-D) in the cell-silent Raman region is highly sensitive, specific, and compatible with living systems. Moreover, coupled with label-free SRS imaging of the total proteome, our method can readily generate spatial maps of the quantitative ratio between new and total proteomes. Thus, this technique of nonlinear vibrational imaging of stable isotope incorporation will be a valuable tool to advance our understanding of the complex spatial and temporal dynamics of newly synthesized proteome in vivo.

Keywords: protein synthesis; stable isotope labeling; stimulated Raman microscopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman / methods*


  • Proteins