Lipid droplets (LDs) are highly dynamic organelles that perform multiple functions, including the regulated storage and release of cholesterol and fatty acids. Information on the molecular composition of individual LDs within their cellular context is crucial in understanding the diverse biological functions of LDs, as well as their involvement in the development of metabolic disorders such as obesity, type II diabetes, and atherosclerosis. Although ensembles of LDs isolated from cells and tissues were analyzed in great detail, quantitative information on the heterogeneity in lipid composition of individual droplets, and possible variations within single lipid droplets, is lacking. Therefore, we used a label-free quantitative method to image lipids within LDs in 3T3-L1 cells. The method combines submicron spatial resolution in three dimensions, using label-free coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering microscopy, with quantitative analysis based on the maximum entropy method. Our method allows quantitative imaging of the chemistry (level of acyl unsaturation) and physical state (acyl chain order) of individual LDs. Our results reveal variations in lipid composition and physical state between LDs contained in the same cell, and even within a single LD.

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Journal Biophys. J.
Rinia, H. A, Burger, K.N.J, Bonn, M, & Müller, M. (2008). Quantitative label-free imaging of lipid composition and packing of individual cellular lipid droplets using multiplex CARS microscopy. Biophys. J., 95, 4908–4914. doi:10.1529/biophysj.108.137737