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Pure Appl. Chem., 2008, Vol. 80, No. 12, pp. 2627-2641

Flow cytometer with mass spectrometer detection for massively multiplexed single-cell biomarker assay

Scott D. Tanner, Dmitry R. Bandura, Olga Ornatsky, Vladimir I. Baranov, Mark Nitz and M. A. Winnik

Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto, 80 St. George Street, Room 18, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3H6, Canada

Abstract: This paper describes the development and application of new metal-tagging reagents and a novel mass spectrometer (MS) detector for a flow cytometer that enables highly multiplexed measurement of many biomarkers in individual cells. A new class of tagging reagents, based on an acrylic polymer backbone that incorporates a reproducible number of lanthanide elements, has been developed. When linked to antibodies that specifically recognize target proteins of interest, determination of the tag elements is diagnostic for the presence and quantification of the antigen. The use of enriched stable isotope tags provides the opportunity for multiparametric assay. The new instrument uses inductively coupled plasma (ICP) to vaporize, atomize, and ionize individual cells that have been probed using the metal-labeled antibodies. The elemental composition, specifically of the metal tags, is recorded simultaneously using a time-of-flight (TOF)-MS that has been specifically designed for high-speed analysis during the short transient corresponding to the individual cell event. The detector provides for well-resolved atomic fingerprints of many elemental and isotopic tags, with little overlap of neighboring signals (high abundance sensitivity) and wide dynamic range both for a single antigen and between antigens.