In this work, we developed a label-free imaging and spectroscopy method to assess the metabolism and thermogenesis of mouse adipose tissues in vivo. An optical redox ratio based on the endogenous fluorescence of mitochondrial coenzymes was used as a biomarker to determine the metabolic state of adipocytes during thermogenesis. The morphological and functional characteristics of different types of adipocytes were assessed in vivo and their thermogenic activities were monitored in real time with a robust spectroscope system.
To understand the mechanisms of important lipid-related biological processes and diseases, it is highly demanded to study the dynamics of lipids in living biological system with high spatiotemporal resolution. However, in vivo quantitative analysis of lipid synthesis and lipolysis has been technically difficult to achieve by conventional lipid extraction and fluorescent staining methods. Recently, SRS microscopy has emerged as a powerful tool to probe small molecules with alkyne (C≡C) or deuterium (C-D) labeling in cell-silent region. The Raman tags have been used for the quantitative study of lipids in cells. In this study, we investigated metabolic dynamics of lipid droplets (LDs) by tracing the alkyne-tagged fatty acid 17-ODYA and deuterium-labeled saturated and unsaturated fatty acids PA-D<sub>31</sub> & OA-D<sub>34</sub> in living C. elegans. Specifically, we developed a hyperspectral SRS microscope system for LDs characterization. The system can sequentially excite and probe the stimulated Raman scattering-induced CH<sub>2</sub> stretching of endogenous lipids information (2863 cm-1), C≡C stretching from 17-ODYA (2125 cm<sup>-1</sup>) and C-D stretching from deuterium-labeled fatty acids (2117 cm<sup>-1</sup>). We first examined the concentration levels of fatty acids in E. coli OP50. Two major lipid metabolic processes, namely uptake and turnover, were further studied in adult C. elegans. We imaged alkyne-tagged and deuterated fatty acids using SRS and traced their uptake, transportation, incorporation and turnover over time. Additionally, several other treatments including starvation were also conducted to study their effects on metabolic dynamics of pulse labeled 17-ODYA, PA-D<sub>31</sub> and OA-D<sub>34</sub>.
Macrophages are essential for the regeneration of skeletal muscle after injury. It has been demonstrated that depletion of macrophages results in delay of necrotic fiber phagocytosis and decreased size of regenerated myofibers. In this work, we developed a multi-modal two-photon microscope system for in vivo study of macrophage activities in the regenerative and fibrotic healing process of injured skeletal muscles. The system is capable to image the muscles based on the second harmonic generation (SHG) and two-photon excited fluorescence (TPEF) signals simultaneously. The dynamic activities of macrophages and muscle satellite cells are recorded in different time windows post the muscle injury. Moreover, we found that infiltrating macrophages emitted strong autofluorescence in the injured skeletal muscle of mouse model, which has not been reported previously. The macrophage autofluorescence was characterized in both spectral and temporal domains. The information extracted from the autofluorescence signals may facilitate the understanding on the formation mechanisms and possible applications in biological research related to skeletal muscle regeneration.
Kinesin-1 is a kind of motor protein responsible for intracellular transportation and has been studied in a variety of tissues. However, its roles in cartilage development are not clear. In this study, a kinesin-1 heavy chain (Kif5b) knockout mouse model is used to study the functions of kinesin-1 in the cartilage development. We developed a multimodal nonlinear optical (NLO) microscope system integrating stimulated Raman scattering (SRS), second harmonic generation (SHG) and two-photon excited fluorescence (TPEF) to investigate the morphological and biomedical characteristics of fresh tibial cartilage from normal and mutant mice at different developmental stages. The combined forward and backward SHG imaging resolved the fine structure of collagen fibrils in the extracellular matrix of cartilage. Meanwhile, the chondrocyte morphology in different zones of cartilage was visualized by label-free SRS and TPEF images. The results show that the fibrillar collagen in the superficial zone of cartilage in postnatal day 10 and 15 (P10 and P15) knockout mice was significantly less than that of control mice. Moreover, we observed distorted morphology and disorganization of columnar arrangement of chondrocytes in the growth plate cartilage of mutant mice. This study reveals the significant roles of kinesin-1 in collagen formation and chondrocyte morphogenesis.
The primary goal of this study is to demonstrate that stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) as a new imaging modality can be integrated into a femtosecond (fs) nonlinear optical (NLO) microscope system. The fs sources of high pulse peak power are routinely used in multimodal nonlinear microscopy to enable efficient excitation of multiple NLO signals. However, with fs excitations, the SRS imaging of subcellular lipid and vesicular structures encounters significant interference from proteins due to poor spectral resolution and a lack of chemical specificity, respectively. We developed a unique NLO microscope of fs excitation that enables rapid acquisition of SRS and multiple two-photon excited fluorescence (TPEF) signals. In the in vivo imaging of transgenic C. elegans animals, we discovered that by cross-filtering false positive lipid signals based on the TPEF signals from tryptophan-bearing endogenous proteins and lysosome-related organelles, the imaging system produced highly accurate assignment of SRS signals to lipid. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the multimodal NLO microscope system could sequentially image lipid structure/content and organelles, such as mitochondria, lysosomes, and the endoplasmic reticulum, which are intricately linked to lipid metabolism.