Arraying of Single Cells for Quantitative High Throughput Laser Ablation ICP-TOF-MS

Anal Chem. 2019 Sep 17;91(18):11520-11528. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.9b00198. Epub 2019 Aug 28.


Arraying of single cells for mass spectrometric analysis is a considerable bioanalytical challenge. In this study, we employ a novel single cell arraying technology for quantitative analysis and isotopic fingerprinting by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-TOF-MS). The single cell arraying approach is based on a piezo-acoustic microarrayer with software for automated optical detection of cells within the piezo dispense capillary (PDC) prior to arraying. Using optimized parameters, single cell occupancy of >99%, high throughput (up to 550 cells per hour), and a high cell recovery of >66% is achieved. LA-ICP-TOF-MS is employed to detect naturally occurring isotopes in the whole mass range as fingerprints of individual cells. Moreover, precise quantitative determination of metal-containing cell dyes is possible down to contents of ∼100 ag using calibration standards which were produced using the same arrayer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Coloring Agents / chemistry
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Isotopes / analysis*
  • Lasers
  • Mass Spectrometry / instrumentation
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Software
  • THP-1 Cells
  • Tissue Array Analysis / methods*


  • Coloring Agents
  • Isotopes