Measuring Reaction Rate Constant in Individual Cells to Facilitate Accurate Analysis of Cell-Population Heterogeneity

We propose Cytometry of Reaction Rate Constant (CRRC) for accurate analysis of cell-population heterogeneity with respect to a specific molecular reaction. Conceptually, in CRRC, the cells are loaded with a reaction substrate, and its conversion into a product is followed by time-lapse fluorescence microscopy at the single-cell level. A reaction rate constant is determined for every cell by using a known kinetic mechanism of the reaction, and a kinetic histogram “number of cells vs. the rate constant” is built. Finally, this histogram is used to determine parameters of reaction-based cell-population heterogeneity. Here, we studied a reaction of substrate extrusion from cells by ABC transporters. We proved that sizes of subpopulations with different extrusion rates could be accurately determined from the kinetic histogram, and this determination was not significantly affected by change in substrate concentration. We foresee that CRRC will facilitate the development of reliable disease biomarkers based on parameters of reaction-based cell-population heterogeneity.