Metabolite analyses of single cells




Single-cell analysis is a promising method for understanding not only cellular physiology but also biological mechanisms of multicellular organisms. Although neighboring cells in multicellular organisms originate from the same genomic information, different circumstances around cells or epigenetic differences have different influences on each cell, leading to differing expression of genes, and thus differing levels and dynamics of metabolites, in single cells. However, single-cell analysis is a tough challenge, even with recent technologies, because of the small size of single cells. Unlike genes, metabolites cannot be amplified, and therefore metabolite analysis is another issue. To analyze such a tiny quantity of metabolites in a single cell, various techniques have been tried and developed. Especially in mass spectrometry, marked improvements in both detection sensitivity and ionization techniques have opened up the challenge for the analysis of metabolites in single cells. In this review, we discuss the method for metabolite detection at the level of single cells and recent advancements in technology.