Live cell imaging of metabolic heterogeneity by quantitative fluorescent ATP indicator protein, QUEEN-37C

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Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is often referred as the energy currency of the cell. Yet, non-invasive, real-time, and quantitative measurement of its concentration in living mammalian cells has been difficult. Here we report an improved fluorescent ATP indicator protein, QUEEN-37C, which is optimized for measuring ATP concentration in living mammalian cells. Absolute value of the ATP concentration can be estimated from the ratiometric fluorescence imaging, and its accuracy was verified by the luciferase assay. Since QUEEN-37C enables the single-cell measurement of ATP concentration, we can not only measure its mean but its distribution in the cell population, which revealed that the ATP concentration is tightly regulated in most cells. We also noted the positive correlations in the ATP concentration among adjacent cells in epithelial cell sheet and mouse embryonic stem cell colonies. Thus, QUEEN-37C would serve as a new tool for the investigation of the single cell heterogeneity of metabolic states.

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