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Raman spectroscopy reveals LPS-induced changes of biomolecular composition in monocytic THP-1 cells in a label-free manner

Töpfer, Natalie; Müller, Mario; Dahms, Marcel; Ramoji, Anuradha; Popp, Jürgen; Slevogt, Hortense; Neugebauer, Ute
in: Integrative Biology (2019) 87

The human innate immune system is able to recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns like lipopolysaccharides (LPS) leading to the activation of signal cascades and the release of different cytokines. Activation of the immune cells can be assessed in different ways which are either indirect (ELISA of cytokine release), require staining protocols (flow cytometry) or lysis of the cells (mRNA analysis). Here, Raman spectroscopy as a non-destructive spectroscopic method is presented to enable direct and label-free monitoring of changes in cellular metabolism, biomolecular composition as well as morphology. Exemplarily, the potential of Raman spectroscopy is presented for the characterization of LPS-stimulation of monocytic THP-1 cells over a time course of 16 hours. The cell culture stimulation model is characterized using gene transcription and expression of the two cytokines TNFα and IL-1β. After 1 h, 3 h, 8 h and 16 h specific Raman spectroscopic fingerprints are generated which encode cell activation pattern after TLR4 stimulation. Most prevalent changes in the spectra occur after 8 h, but slight differences are already detectable after 1 h. Spatially highly resolved Raman scans are used to generate false color Raman images which provide spatial information of the biochemical state of the cells and changes over time. One of the most significant observed differences is an increase in Raman signal from DNA/RNA content in LPS-stimulated cells when compared to unstimulated cells. The systematic assignment of Raman spectroscopic profiles of LPS-activated cells to cellular activation assessed by cytokine gene transcription and expression opens new ways for label-free and direct immunological studies of specific pathogen recognizing receptors and their downstream signaling pathways.

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