In vivo metabolic fingerprinting of neutral lipids with hyperspectral stimulated Raman scattering microscopy

J Am Chem Soc. 2014 Jun 18;136(24):8820-8. doi: 10.1021/ja504199s. Epub 2014 Jun 9.


Metabolic fingerprinting provides valuable information on the physiopathological states of cells and tissues. Traditional imaging mass spectrometry and magnetic resonance imaging are unable to probe the spatial-temporal dynamics of metabolites at the subcellular level due to either lack of spatial resolution or inability to perform live cell imaging. Here we report a complementary metabolic imaging technique that is based on hyperspectral stimulated Raman scattering (hsSRS). We demonstrated the use of hsSRS imaging in quantifying two major neutral lipids: cholesteryl ester and triacylglycerol in cells and tissues. Our imaging results revealed previously unknown changes of lipid composition associated with obesity and steatohepatitis. We further used stable-isotope labeling to trace the metabolic dynamics of fatty acids in live cells and live Caenorhabditis elegans with hsSRS imaging. We found that unsaturated fatty acid has preferential uptake into lipid storage while saturated fatty acid exhibits toxicity in hepatic cells. Simultaneous metabolic fingerprinting of deuterium-labeled saturated and unsaturated fatty acids in living C. elegans revealed that there is a lack of interaction between the two, unlike previously hypothesized. Our findings provide new approaches for metabolic tracing of neutral lipids and their precursors in living cells and organisms, and could potentially serve as a general approach for metabolic fingerprinting of other metabolites.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cholesterol Esters / chemistry*
  • Cholesterol Esters / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Metabolomics*
  • Mice
  • Particle Size
  • Rats
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / growth & development
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism*
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman
  • Surface Properties
  • Triglycerides / chemistry*
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*


  • Cholesterol Esters
  • Fatty Acids
  • Triglycerides