Ca<sup>2+</sup> and cAMP are ubiquitous second messengers known to differentially regulate a variety of cellular functions over a wide range of timescales. Studies from a variety of groups support the hypothesis that these signals can be localized to discrete locations within cells, and that this subcellular localization is a critical component of signaling specificity. However, to date, it has been difficult to track second messenger signals at multiple locations within a single cell. This difficulty is largely due to the inability to measure multiplexed florescence signals in real time. To overcome this limitation, we have utilized both emission scan- and excitation scan-based hyperspectral imaging approaches to track second messenger signals as well as labeled cellular structures and/or proteins in the same cell. We have previously reported that hyperspectral imaging techniques improve the signal-to-noise ratios of both fluorescence and FRET measurements, and are thus well suited for the measurement of localized second messenger signals. Using these approaches, we have measured near plasma membrane and near nuclear membrane cAMP signals, as well as distributed signals within the cytosol, in several cell types including airway smooth muscle, pulmonary endothelial, and HEK-293 cells. We have also measured cAMP and Ca<sup>2+</sup> signals near autofluorescent structures that appear to be golgi. Our data demonstrate that hyperspectral imaging approaches provide unique insight into the spatial and kinetic distributions of cAMP and Ca<sup>2+</sup> signals in single cells.
In the past two decades, spectral imaging technologies have expanded the capacity of fluorescence microscopy for accurate detection of multiple labels, separation of labels from cellular and tissue autofluorescence, and analysis of autofluorescence signatures. These technologies have been implemented using a range of optical techniques, such as tunable filters, diffraction gratings, prisms, interferometry, and custom Bayer filters. Each of these techniques has associated strengths and weaknesses with regard to spectral resolution, spatial resolution, temporal resolution, and signal-to-noise characteristics. We have previously shown that spectral scanning of the fluorescence excitation spectrum can provide greatly increased signal strength compared to traditional emission-scanning approaches. Here, we present results from utilizing a Hyperspectral Imaging Fluorescence Excitation Scanning (HIFEX) microscope system for live cell imaging. Live cell signaling studies were performed using HEK 293 and rat pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells (PMVECs), transfected with either a cAMP FRET reporter or a Ca<sup>2+</sup> reporter. Cells were further labeled to visualize subcellular structures (nuclei, membrane, mitochondria, etc.). Spectral images were acquired using a custom inverted microscope (TE2000, Nikon Instruments) equipped with a 300W Xe arc lamp and tunable excitation filter (VF- 5, Sutter Instrument Co., equipped with VersaChrome filters, Semrock), and run through MicroManager. Timelapse spectral images were acquired from 350-550 nm, in 5 nm increments. Spectral image data were linearly unmixed using custom MATLAB scripts. Results indicate that the HIFEX microscope system can acquire live cell image data at acquisition speeds of 8 ms/wavelength band with minimal photobleaching, sufficient for studying moderate speed cAMP and Ca<sup>2+</sup> events.