Label-Free Characterization of Macrophage Polarization Using Raman Spectroscopy
Macrophages are important cells of the innate immune system that play many different roles in host defense, a fact that is reflected by their polarization into many distinct subtypes. Depending on their function and phenotype, macrophages can be grossly classified into classically activated macrophages (pro-inflammatory M1 cells), alternatively activated macrophages (anti-inflammatory M2 cells), and non-activated cells (resting M0 cells). A fast, label-free and non-destructive characterization of macrophage phenotypes could be of importance for studying the contribution of the various subtypes to numerous pathologies. In this work, single cell Raman spectroscopic imaging was applied to visualize the characteristic phenotype as well as to discriminate between different human macrophage phenotypes without any label and in a non-destructive manner. Macrophages were derived by differentiation of peripheral blood monocytes of human healthy donors and differently treated to yield M0, M1 and M2 phenotypes, as confirmed by marker analysis using flow cytometry and fluorescence imaging. Raman images of chemically fixed cells of those three macrophage phenotypes were processed using chemometric methods of unmixing (N-FINDR) and discrimination (PCA-LDA). The discrimination models were validated using leave-one donor-out cross-validation. The results show that Raman imaging is able to discriminate between pro- and anti-inflammatory macrophage phenotypes with high accuracy in a non-invasive, non-destructive and label-free manner. The spectral differences observed can be explained by the biochemical characteristics of the different phenotypes.