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Sample Preparation for Mass Cytometry Analysis

Published: April 29th, 2017



1Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

This article describes the collection and processing of samples for mass cytometry analysis.

Mass cytometry utilizes antibodies conjugated with heavy metal labels, an approach that has greatly increased the number of parameters and opportunities for deep analysis well beyond what is possible with conventional fluorescence-based flow cytometry. As with any new technology, there are critical steps that help ensure the reliable generation of high-quality data. Presented here is an optimized protocol that incorporates multiple techniques for the processing of cell samples for mass cytometry analysis. The methods described here will help the user avoid common pitfalls and achieve consistent results by minimizing variability, which can lead to inaccurate data. To inform experimental design, the rationale behind optional or alternative steps in the protocol and their efficacy in uncovering new findings in the biology of the system being investigated is covered. Lastly, representative data is presented to illustrate expected results from the techniques presented here.

Cytometry enables the simultaneous measurement of multiple antibody targets at a single cell level across large populations of cells. In traditional fluorescence-based flow cytometry, the number of parameters that can be quantified is limited by spectral overlap between the emission spectrum of multiple fluorophores, which requires increasingly complex compensation calculations as the number of parameters increases. These limitations are addressed by mass cytometry, where heavy metal-conjugated antibodies are detected and quantified by time of flight (TOF) mass spectrometry to greatly expand the number of parameters collected simultaneously and yield a high dimensiona....

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1. Cell Harvesting

  1. Harvesting cells from primary tissue
    NOTE: The process described for harvesting cells from primary tissue is specifically applicable to mouse breast tumor tissue and may not be applicable as is to primary tissues from other sources.
    1. Prepare digestion buffer by dissolving 5 mg hyaluronidase and 30 mg collagenase in 10 mL DMEM/F12 media per gram of tissue to be processed. Filter sterilize digestion buffer.
    2. Isolate primary mammary gland tumor from.......

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The protocol presented here can be broadly applied to a wide variety of cultured and primary cell samples with only minor modifications. Depending upon the requirements of the experiment, it can be performed in a modular manner when certain elements, such as barcoding or cell surface staining, are not necessary. Utilized in its entirety this protocol enables the preparation of multiplexed mass cytometry samples labeled for dead cell exclusion, S-phase population identification and stained.......

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The protocol presented here has been successfully employed for the processing of various cultured cell lines (H1 and H9 hESCs, mESCs, MCF7, HEK 293, KBM5, HMEC, MCF10a) and primary tissue samples (mouse bone marrow, mouse embryonic liver, mouse adult liver, mouse tumor). Irrespective of the source, any tissue that can be dissociated into single cells while preserving the cellular state should be amenable to analysis by mass cytometry, but may require some protocol optimization. It is important to note that some epitopes .......

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Work in the Barton lab was supported by a grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT RP110471). This research was supported in part, by a training grant fellowship for Ryan L. McCarthy from the National Institutes of Health Training Program in Molecular Genetics 5 T32 CA009299. The core facility that maintains and runs the mass cytometry machine is supported by CPRIT grant (RP121010) and NIH core grant (CA016672).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
mTeSR1 medium kit Stem Cell technologies 05850 Warm at room temperature before use
DMEM F-12 ThermoFisher 11330-032 Warm at 37°C before use
Accutase Stem Cell technologies 07920 Warm at 37°C before use
Bovine serum albumin Equitech BAH62
phosphate buffered saline Hyclone SH30256.01
Saponin Sigma-Aldrich 47036
Cell ID Pt194 Fluidigm Provided at 1mM
Cell ID Pt195 Fluidigm Provided at 1mM
Cell ID Pt196 Fluidigm Provided at 1mM
Cisplatin Enzo Life Sciences ALX-400-040-M250 Soluble to 25mg/ml in DMSO
Cell-ID 20-plex Pd Barcoding Kit Fluidigm 201060
5-Iodo-2'-deoxyuridine Sigma-Aldrich I7125 Soluble to 74mg/ml in 0.2N NaOH
Rhodium 103 intercelating agent Fluidigm 201103A
Methanol Fisher BP1105-4 Chill at -20°C before use
Sodium Azide Sigma-Aldrich S2002
5ml round bottom tubes Falcon 352058
5ml 35um filter cap tubes Falcon 352235
EQ four element calibration beads Fluidigm 201078
Hyaluronidase Type I-S Sigma-Aldrich H3506
Collagenase from Clostridium histolyticum Sigma-Aldrich C9891
Disposable Scalpel #10 Sigma-Aldrich Z69239

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