Metabolism and mitochondrial dysfunction are known to be involved in many different disease states. We have employed two-photon fluorescence imaging of intrinsic mitochondrial reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) to quantify the metabolic state of several cultured cell lines, multicell tumor spheroids, and the intact mouse organ of Corti. Historically, fluorescence intensity has commonly been used as an indicator of the NADH concentration in cells and tissues. More recently, fluorescence lifetime imaging has revealed that changes in metabolism produce not only changes in fluorescence intensity, but also significant changes in the lifetimes and concentrations of free and enzyme-bound pools of NADH. Since NADH binding changes with metabolic state, this approach presents a new opportunity to track the cellular metabolic state.
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