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    Cells regulate their cell volume, but cell volumes may change in response to metabolic and other perturbations. Many metabolomics experiments use cultured cells to measure changes in metabolites in response to physiological and other experimental perturbations, but the metabolomics workflow by mass spectrometry only determines total metabolite amounts in cell culture extracts. To convert metabolite amount to metabolite concentration requires knowledge of the number and volume of the cells. Measuring only metabolite amount can lead to incorrect or skewed results in cell culture experiments because cell size may change due to experimental conditions independent of change in metabolite concentration. We have developed a novel method to determine cell volume in cell culture experiments using a pair of stable isotopically labeled phenylalanine internal standards incorporated within the normal liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) metabolomics workflow. This method relies on the flooding-dose technique where the intracellular concentration of a particular compound (in this case phenylalanine) is forced to equal its extracellular concentration. We illustrate the LC-MS/MS technique for two different mammalian cell lines. Although the method is applicable in general for determining cell volume, the major advantage of the method is its seamless incorporation within the normal metabolomics workflow.


    Karatatiwant Singh Sidhu, Eyal Amiel, Ralph C Budd, Dwight E Matthews. Determination of cell volume as part of metabolomics experiments. American journal of physiology. Cell physiology. 2021 Dec 01;321(6):C947-C953

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    PMID: 34613842

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