Macrophages are phagocytic cells which are involved in the non-specific immune defense. Lipid uptake and storage behavior of macrophages also play a key role in the development of atherosclerotic lesions within walls of blood vessels. The allocation of exogenous lipids such as fatty acids in the blood stream dictates the accumulation and quantity of lipids within macrophages. In case of an overexposure, macrophages transform into foam cells because of the large amount of lipid droplets in the cytoplasm. Raman microspectroscopy is a powerful tool for studying single cells due to the combination of microscopic imaging with spectral information. With a spatial resolution restricted by the diffraction limit, it is possible to visualize lipid droplets within macrophages. With stable isotopic labeling of fatty acids with deuterium, the uptake and storage of exogenously provided fatty acids can be investigated. In this study, we present the results of time-dependent Raman spectroscopic imaging of single THP-1 macrophages incubated with deuterated arachidonic acid. The polyunsaturated fatty acid plays an important role in the cellular signaling pathway as being the precursor of icosanoids. We show that arachidonic acid is stored in lipid droplets but foam cell formation is less pronounced as with other fatty acids. The storage efficiency in lipid droplets is lower than in cells incubated with deuterated palmitic acid. We validate our results with gas chromatography and gain information on the relative content of arachidonic acid and its metabolites in treated macrophages. These analyses also provide evidence that significant amounts of the intracellular arachidonic acid is elongated to adrenic acid but is not metabolized any further. The cosupplementation of deuterated arachidonic acid and deuterated palmitic acid leads to a non-homogenous storage pattern in lipid droplets within single cells. © Springer-Verlag 2014.
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