A microfluidic system was developed for the analysis of single biological cells, with functional integration of cell sampling, single cell loading, docking, lysing, and capillary electrophoretic (CE) separation with laser induced fluorescence (LIF) detection in microfabricated channels of a single glass chip. Channels were 12 µm deep and 48 µm wide, with a simple crossed-channel design. The effective separation channel length was 35 mm. During sampling with a cell suspension (cell population 1.2 × 105 cells per mL in physiological salt solution), differential hydrostatic pressure (created by adjusting liquid levels in the four reservoirs) was used to control cell flow exclusively through the channel crossing. Single cell loading into the separation channel was achieved by electrophoretic means by applying a set of potentials at the four reservoirs, counteracting the hydrostatic flow. A special docking (adhering) procedure for the loaded cell was applied before lysis by repeatedly connecting and disconnecting a set of low potentials, allowing precise positioning of the cell within the separation channel. Cell lysis was then effected within 40 ms under an applied CE separation voltage of 1.4 kV (280 V cm−1) within the working electrolyte (pH 9.2 borate buffer) without additional lysates. The docked lysing approach reduced dispersion of released intracellular constituents, and significantly improved the reproducibility of CE separations. Glutathione (GSH) was used as a model intracellular component in single human erythrocyte cells. NDA derivatized GSH was detected using LIF. A throughput of 15 samples h−1, a retention time precision of 2.4% RSD was obtained for 14 consecutively injected cells. The average cellular concentration of GSH in human erythrocytes was found to be 7.2 × 10−4
± 3.3 × 10−4 M (63 ± 29 amol per cell). The average separation efficiency for GSH in lysed cells was 2.13 × 106
± 0.4 × 106 plates per m, and was about a factor of 5 higher than those obtained with GSH standards using pinched injection.