Long-term storage of desiccated nucleated mammalian cells at ambient temperature may be accomplished in a stable glassy state, which can be achieved by removal of water from the biological sample in the presence of glass-forming agents including trehalose. The stability of the glass may be compromised due to a nonuniform distribution of residual water and trehalose within and around the desiccated cells. Thus, quantification of water and trehalose contents at the single-cell level is critical for predicting the glass formation and stability for dry storage. Using Raman microspectroscopy, we estimated the trehalose and residual water contents in the microenvironment of spin-dried cells. Individual cells with or without intracellular trehalose were embedded in a solid thin layer of extracellular trehalose after spin-drying. We found strong evidence suggesting that the residual water was bound at a 2:1 water/trehalose molar ratio in both the extracellular and intracellular milieus. Other than the water associated with trehalose, we did not find any more residual water in the spin-dried sample, intra- or extracellularly. The extracellular trehalose film exhibited characteristics of an amorphous state with a glass transition temperature of ∼22°C. The intracellular milieu also dried to levels suitable for glass formation at room temperature. These findings demonstrate a method for quantification of water and trehalose in desiccated specimens using confocal Raman microspectroscopy. This approach has broad use in desiccation studies to carefully investigate the relationship of water and trehalose content and distribution with the tolerance to drying in mammalian cells.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Alireza Abazari holds a postdoctoral fellowship award from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. This research was also funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants 2 R01 DK046270-14A1 and 5 R01 GM086886.
© 2014 Biophysical Society.