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Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, Vol. 396, (5)2010, pp. 1781-1791. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-009-3411-7 Available from the publisher here


The in vitro study of cellular species using Raman spectroscopy has proven a powerful non-invasive modality for the analysis of cell constituents and processes. This work uses micro-Raman spectroscopy to study the chemical fixation mechanism in three human cell lines (normal skin, normal bronchial epithelium, and lung adenocarcinoma) employing fixatives that preferentially preserve proteins (formalin), and nucleic acids (Carnoy’s fixative and methanol–acetic acid). Spectral differences between the mean live cell spectra and fixed cell spectra together with principal components analysis (PCA), and clustering techniques were used to analyse and interpret the spectral changes. The results indicate that fixation in formalin produces spectral content that is closest to that in the live cell and by extension, best preserves the cellular integrity. Nucleic acid degradation, protein denaturation, and lipid leaching were observed with all fixatives and for all cell lines, but to varying degrees. The results presented here suggest that the mechanism of fixation for short fixation times is complex and dependent on both the cell line and fixative employed. Moreover, important spectral changes occur with all fixatives that have consequences for the interpretation of biochemical processes within fixed cells. The study further demonstrates the potential of vibrational spectroscopy in the characterization of complex biochemical processes in cells at a molecular level. Figure Chemical preservation of cells for Raman microspectroscopy is shown to be strongly dependent on the cell type and the fixative used, in a variety of cell lines, with formalin fixation show to result in spectral content most comparable to that in the live cell


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