Polarized THG Microscopy Identifies Compositionally Different Lipid Droplets in Mammalian Cells

G. Bautista, S.G. Pfisterer, M.J. Huttunen, K. Kanerva, Elina Ikonen, M. Kauranen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
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Cells store excess lipids as two major compounds, triacylglycerols (TAGs) and cholesteryl esters (CEs), inside lipid droplets (LDs). The degree of lipid ordering is considered to play a major role in the mobility and enzymatic processing of lipids in LDs. Here, we provide evidence that polarized third-harmonic generation (THG) microscopy distinguishes between native TAG- and CE-enriched LDs in cells due to the different ordering of the two lipid species. We first demonstrate that the responses from synthetic TAG- and CE-enriched LDs using THG microscopy with linear and circular polarizations differ according to their different intrinsic ordering. We then employ simulations to dissect how polarization effects influence the THG from an isotropic LD. Finally, we induce TAG- and CE-enriched LDs in murine macrophages and demonstrate that polarized THG responses increase in a nonlinear fashion with increasing CE/TAG ratio. This suggests that with an increasing CE content, there is a rather sharp transition toward increased LD ordering. Our results demonstrate that polarized THG microscopy enables label-free quantitative analysis of LD ordering and discriminates between compositionally different LDs in intact mammalian cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2230-2236
JournalBiophysical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • lipid
  • microscopy
  • polarization

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