The relationship between nuclear magnetic resonance-visible lipids, lipid droplets, and cell proliferation in cultured C6 cells

Ignasi Barba, Miquel E. Cabañas, Carles Arús

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165 Citations (Scopus)


There is an ongoing controversy about the subcellular origin of the fatty acyl chains that give rise to the NMR visible mobile lipids (MLs) resonance at ~1.24 ppm in the 1H spectra of cells and solid tumors. Some groups have been supporting the hypothesis that triglycerides originating MLs are isotropically tumbling in small membrane microdomains, whereas other authors back the proposal that they are inside cytosolic or extracellular (necrotic areas) lipid droplets. Furthermore, MLs are frequently present in in vivo spectra recorded from human brain tumors, but the meaning of this detection is not fully clear. We have addressed the possible contribution of intracellular droplets to the ML pattern recorded from human brain tumors in vivo by studying cultured C6 rat glioma cells as a model system for astrocytic tumors. We show here that cultured C6 cells display ML resonances in high field (9.4 T) 1H NMR spectra recorded at 136 ms echo time when grown at saturation density conditions, but no MLs are visible for log-phase cells. Fluorescence microscopy analysis of cells stained with the lipophylic dye Nile red shows intracellular spherical yellow-gold droplets containing neutral lipids; cells at saturation density present lipid droplets of diameters about 1.6 μm in most cells (85%), whereas they are almost absent in log-phase cells (only 6% of the cells contain them). Furthermore, logphase cells can be induced to display MLs and accumulate Nile redpositive droplets by culturing them for 24 h at pH 6.2. This acid pH effect can be fully reversed by 24 h of standard media incubation. Lipid droplet volume calculated from fluorescence microscopy preparations in an average cell is different for both culture conditions (2.2 times higher volume for saturation density than for pH-stressed cells). This difference in lipid droplet volume is reflected by a different NIL peak height at 1.24 ppm (about 2 times higher for saturation density than for pH-stressed cells). Flow cytometry analysis shows that both culture conditions result in a slowing down of the proliferation rate of the cells. The fact that MLs are found to originate in lipid droplets inside cells that are growth compromised but still viable suggests that changes in the proliferative state of tumor cells, in the absence of necrosis, may be detected non invasively by in vivo NMR spectroscopy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1861-1868
JournalCancer Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 1999


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