Design and Application of Sensors for Chemical Cytometry

ACS Chem Biol. 2018 Jul 20;13(7):1741-1751. doi: 10.1021/acschembio.7b01009. Epub 2018 Feb 8.


The bulk cell population response to a stimulus, be it a growth factor or a cytotoxic agent, neglects the cell-to-cell variability that can serve as a friend or as a foe in human biology. Biochemical variations among closely related cells furnish the basis for the adaptability of the immune system but also act as the root cause of resistance to chemotherapy by tumors. Consequently, the ability to probe for the presence of key biochemical variables at the single-cell level is now recognized to be of significant biological and biomedical impact. Chemical cytometry has emerged as an ultrasensitive single-cell platform with the flexibility to measure an array of cellular components, ranging from metabolite concentrations to enzyme activities. We briefly review the various chemical cytometry strategies, including recent advances in reporter design, probe and metabolite separation, and detection instrumentation. We also describe strategies for improving intracellular delivery, biochemical specificity, metabolic stability, and detection sensitivity of probes. Recent applications of these strategies to small molecules, lipids, proteins, and other analytes are discussed. Finally, we assess the current scope and limitations of chemical cytometry and discuss areas for future development to meet the needs of single-cell research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Design
  • Electrophoresis, Capillary / methods
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*


  • Fluorescent Dyes