New approach to assess the cholesterol distribution in the eye lens: confocal Raman microspectroscopy and filipin cytochemistry

J Lipid Res. 1995 May;36(5):1139-46.


Confocal Raman microspectroscopy (CRM) is a non-invasive, non-destructive, and sensitive analytical tool for the study of some aspects of the molecular organization of cells and tissues with high spatial resolution. Filipin, a polyene antibiotic, specifically binds to cholesterol, and its molecular structure predicts it to be Raman-active. The aim of the present study was to assess the potentialities of a combined CRM-filipin approach to study the distribution of cholesterol in the human eye lens. Paraformaldehyde-fixed human lenses were sliced (0.7 mm), incubated with filipin, and analyzed by CRM. Filipin proved to give a specific Raman signal at 1586 cm-1, hardly interfering with signals from lens proteins. The CRM-filipin approach proved to be extremely sensitive, allowing detection of cholesterol in the femtogram range. It has an excellent spatial resolution (0.2-0.5 micron 3) when using point measurements. Due to the intrinsic anisotropy of membranes in the eye lens and therefore of the cholesterol distribution, a line-scan approach has to be adopted when fiber-to-fiber changes in cholesterol are of interest. The distribution of filipin along the optical axis of four human eye lenses was compared with data from the literature. The combined CRM-filipin approach is a highly specific and sensitive method for the study of cholesterol within cells and tissues. The spatial resolution is high and can be adapted to the desired discriminative power. The gross distribution of filipin along the optical axis obtained in this study is similar to that found in biochemical studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol / analysis*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Filipin / chemistry*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / chemistry*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Molecular Probes
  • Molecular Structure
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman / methods*


  • Molecular Probes
  • Filipin
  • Cholesterol