Label-Free Quantification of Intracellular Mitochondrial Dynamics Using Dielectrophoresis

Anal Chem. 2017 Jun 6;89(11):5757-5764. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b04666. Epub 2017 May 15.


Mitochondrial dynamics play an important role within several pathological conditions, including cancer and neurological diseases. For the purpose of identifying therapies that target aberrant regulation of the mitochondrial dynamics machinery and characterizing the regulating signaling pathways, there is a need for label-free means to detect the dynamic alterations in mitochondrial morphology. We present the use of dielectrophoresis for label-free quantification of intracellular mitochondrial modifications that alter cytoplasmic conductivity, and these changes are benchmarked against label-based image analysis of the mitochondrial network. This is validated by quantifying the mitochondrial alterations that are carried out by entirely independent means on two different cell lines: human embryonic kidney cells and mouse embryonic fibroblasts. In both cell lines, the inhibition of mitochondrial fission that leads to a mitochondrial structure of higher connectivity is shown to substantially enhance conductivity of the cell interior, as apparent from the significantly higher positive dielectrophoresis levels in the 0.5-15 MHz range. Using single-cell velocity tracking, we show ∼10-fold higher positive dielectrophoresis levels at 0.5 MHz for cells with a highly connected versus those with a highly fragmented mitochondrial structure, suggesting the feasibility for frequency-selective dielectrophoretic isolation of cells to aid the discovery process for development of therapeutics targeting the mitochondrial machinery.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Separation / methods
  • Cell Tracking
  • Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures
  • Electrophoresis / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction