Regulated exocytosis is a fundamental biological process used to deliver chemical messengers for cell-cell communication via membrane fusion and content secretion. A plethora of cell types employ this chemical-based communication to achieve crucial functions in many biological systems. Neurons in the brain and platelets in the circulatory system are representative examples utilizing exocytosis for neurotransmission and blood clotting. Single-cell studies of regulated exocytosis in the past several decades have greatly expanded our knowledge of this critical process, from vesicle/granule transport and docking at the early stages of exocytosis to membrane fusion and to eventual chemical messenger secretion. Herein, four main approaches that have been widely used to study single-cell exocytosis will be highlighted, including total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, capillary electrophoresis, single-cell mass spectrometry, and microelectrochemistry. These techniques are arranged in the order following the route of a vesicle/granule destined for secretion. Within each section, the basic principles and experimental strategies are reviewed and representative examples are given revealing critical spatial, temporal, and chemical information of a secretory vesicle/granule at different stages of its lifetime. Lastly, an analytical chemist's perspective on potential future developments in this exciting field is discussed.
- Capillary electrophoresis
- Mass spectrometry
- Single-cell study
- Total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy