Monitoring cell secretions on microfluidic chips using solid-phase extraction with mass spectrometry

Colleen E. Dugan, James P. Grinias, Sebastian D. Parlee, Mahmoud El-Azzouny, Charles R. Evans, Robert T. Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Microfluidics is an enabling technology for both cell biology and chemical analysis. We combine these attributes with a microfluidic device for on-line solid-phase extraction (SPE) and mass spectrometry (MS) analysis of secreted metabolites from living cells in culture on the chip. The device was constructed with polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and contains a reversibly sealed chamber for perfusing cells. A multilayer design allowed a series of valves to control an on-chip 7.5 μL injection loop downstream of the cell chamber with operation similar to a six-port valve. The valve collects sample and then diverts it to a packed SPE bed that was connected in-line to treat samples prior to MS analysis. The valve allows samples to be collected and injected onto the SPE bed while preventing exposure of cells to added back pressure from the SPE bed and organic solvents needed to elute collected chemicals. Here, cultured murine 3T3-L1 adipocytes were loaded into the cell chamber and non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) that were secreted by the cells were monitored by SPE-MS at 30 min intervals. The limit of detection for a palmitoleic acid standard was 1.4 μM. Due to the multiplexed detection capabilities of MS, a variety of NEFAs were detected. Upon stimulation with isoproterenol and forskolin, secretion of select NEFAs was elevated an average of 1.5-fold compared to basal levels. Despite the 30-min delay between sample injections, this device is a step towards a miniaturized system that allows automated monitoring and identification of a variety of molecules in the extracellular environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-178
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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