Single-cell MALDI Tandem Mass Spectrometry: Unambiguous Assignment of Small Biomolecules from Single Chlamydomonas reinhardtii Cells


  • Jasmin Krismer Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, Vladimir-Prelog-Weg 3, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland
  • Robert F. Steinhoff Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences ETH Zurich, Vladimir-Prelog-Weg 3, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland
  • Renato Zenobi Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich Vladimir-Prelog-Weg 3, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland.



Collision-induced-dissociation, Matrix-assisted laser-desorption/ionization, Single-cell mass spectrometry, Tandem mass spectrometry


The analysis of compounds from single cells is a major challenge in analytical life science. Labeling strategies, for instance fluorescence detection, are well established for measuring proteins with single cell sensitivity, but they mostly fail to detect small molecules. More recently mass spectrometry has entered the realm of single cell sensitivity and enables the label-free and highly parallelized detection of small biomolecules from single cells. The assignment of signals detected in single cells, however, generally has to rely on measurements in whole cell culture extracts. Isobaric structures, contaminations, higher noise levels and the high variability in the abundance of peaks between single cells complicate the assignment of peaks in single-cell spectra. Tandem mass spectrometry would be very useful for compound identification via mass spectrometry directly in single-cell analyses. Here we present the first single cell tandem mass spectra collected using matrix-assisted laser-desorption/ionization. The spectra obtained allow the assignment of most compounds detected in the spectra. We also show that the fragmentation is not restricted to the most abundant peaks in the spectra, but over a dynamic range of more than one order of magnitude.




How to Cite

J. Krismer, R. F. Steinhoff, R. Zenobi, Chimia 2016, 70, 236, DOI: 10.2533/chimia.2016.236.