Geographical mapping of metabolites in biological tissue with quantitative bioluminescence and single photon imaging

Histochem J. 1993 Jun;25(6):407-20. doi: 10.1007/BF00157805.


This article features a novel technique for measuring the spatial distribution of metabolites, such as ATP, glucose, and lactate, in rapidly frozen tissue. Concentration values are obtained in absolute terms and with a spatial resolution of single-cell dimension. The method is based on enzymatic reactions that link the metabolite of interest to luciferase with subsequent light emission. Using a specific array, cryosections are brought into contact with the enzymes in a well-defined, reproducible way inducing a distribution of light across the section with an intensity that is proportional to the metabolite concentration. The emitted light can be visualized through a microscope and an imaging photon counting system, and the respective image can be transferred to a computer for image analysis. Measurements in spherical cell aggregates with central necrosis demonstrate a close correlation between the distribution of ATP and of cellular viability at a microregional level. Similarly, ATP and glucose are correlated with the geometrical arrangement of more viable and more necrotic tissue regions in human melanomas xenografted in nude mice. Lactate did not show such a structure-related distribution in these tumours. Structure-related distributions of ATP, glucose, and lactate are found in cervix tumours of patients. In contrast to the heterogeneous distributions in tumours, the distribution patterns were much more homogeneous in normal tissues. Regional differences were present, but were much more gradual than in malignancies. This was illustrated for heart muscle where ATP concentrations were found that agreed with data in the literature, and that showed a decrease in periventricular areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / analysis
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Frozen Sections
  • Glucose / analysis
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Histocytochemistry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Lactates / analysis
  • Lactates / metabolism*
  • Lactic Acid
  • Luminescent Measurements*
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Lactates
  • Lactic Acid
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Glucose