Intracellular protein and nucleic acid measured in eight cell types using deep-ultraviolet mass mapping



We present measurements by deep-ultraviolet mass mapping of nucleic acid (NA) and protein for five commonly cultured and three primary cell types. The dry mass distribution at submicron resolution was determined on a single-cell basis for 250–500 cells from each of these types. Since the method carries a direct reference to a spectrophotometric standard (molar extinction coefficient), we are able to calibrate the absolute weight distributions both on a cell-to-cell basis within each type and across types. We also provide a calibration in absolute mass units for fluorescence-based measurements (flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy). As might be expected the cultured cell lines show a high concentration of nucleic acids in the nuclear compartment, much larger than the genomic 2C number even in the G1 stage. The whole-cell nucleic-acid/protein ratio was found to be a characteristic of cell lines that persists independent of cell cycle and, as a result, this ratio has some value for phenotyping. Primary chicken red blood cells (cRBC), often used as a cytometry standard, were determined to have a nuclear-isolated nucleic acid content much closer to the genomic number than the cultured cell lines (cRBC: 3.00 pg total NA, 2.30 pg DNA, and 0.70 pg RNA). The individual blastomeres (n = 54) from mouse embryos at eight-cell stage were measured and found to vary by more than a factor or two in total protein and nucleic acid content (0.8–2.3 ng total protein, 70–150 pg total NA). The ratio of nucleic acid to protein was more nearly constant for each blastomere from a particular embryo and this ratio was found to be an identifying characteristic that varies from embryo to embryo obtained from a single flushing of a mouse. © 2013 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry