Even populations of clonal cells are heterogeneous, which requires high-throughput analysis methods with single-cell sensitivity. Here, we propose a rapid, label-free single-cell analytical method based on active capillary dielectric barrier discharge ionization mass spectrometry, which can analyze multiple metabolites in single cells at a rate of 38 cells/minute. Multiple cell types (HEK-293T, PANC-1, CFPAC-1, H6c7, HeLa and iBAs) were discriminated successfully. We found evidence for abnormal lipid metabolism in pancreatic cancer cells. We also analyzed gene expression in a cancer genome atlas dataset and found that the mRNA level of a critical enzyme of lipid synthesis (ATP citrate lyase, ACLY) was upregulated in human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Moreover, both an ACLY chemical inhibitor and a siRNA approach targeting ACLY could suppress the viability of PDAC cells. A significant reduction in lipid content in treated cells indicates that ACLY could be a potential target for treating pancreatic cancer.
Keywords: ATP citrate lyase; dielectric barrier discharge; ionization sources; lipid metabolism; single-cell mass spectrometry.
© 2021 The Authors. Angewandte Chemie International Edition published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.