SpaceM reveals metabolic states of single cells

Rappez, L., Stadler, M., Triana, S., Gathungu, R. M., Ovchinnikova, K., Phapale, P., Heikenwalder, M., Alexandrov, T. (2021). Nat Methods 18, 799-805.

DOI:10.1038/s41592-021-01198-0(link is external)


A growing appreciation of the importance of cellular metabolism and revelations concerning the extent of cell–cell heterogeneity demand metabolic characterization of individual cells. We present SpaceM, an open-source method for in situ single-cell metabolomics that detects >100 metabolites from >1,000 individual cells per hour, together with a fluorescence-based readout and retention of morpho-spatial features. We validated SpaceM by predicting the cell types of cocultured human epithelial cells and mouse fibroblasts. We used SpaceM to show that stimulating human hepatocytes with fatty acids leads to the emergence of two coexisting subpopulations outlined by distinct cellular metabolic states. Inducing inflammation with the cytokine interleukin-17A perturbs the balance of these states in a process dependent on NF-κB signaling. The metabolic state markers were reproduced in a murine model of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. We anticipate SpaceM to be broadly applicable for investigations of diverse cellular models and to democratize single-cell metabolomics.