The sensitive detection of single-cell secreted lactic acid for glycolytic inhibitor screening with a microdroplet biosensor†
Lactic acid (LA) plays an important role in the tumor metabolism and malignant progression of various cancers. Herein, we have developed a one-step, wash-free microfluidic approach with droplet biosensors for the sensitive detection of LA secreted by a single tumor cell. Our assay integrates the enzyme-assisted chemical conversion of LA in small-volume (4.2 nL) droplets for fluorescence signal readout. The microdroplet assay achieved a limit of detection of 1.02 μM and was more sensitive than the commercial ELISA kit by nearly two orders of magnitude. A good specificity has been demonstrated for this assay by testing various ions and biomolecules from the culture medium. This droplet assay allows us to acquire the profiles of the lactic acid secretion of tumor cells under the influence of glycolytic inhibitors at the single-cell level. It offers a useful research tool to study the cell-to-cell differences of LA secretion and glycolytic inhibitor screening for cancer research.