Identification of biomolecules by mechanical modulation Raman microscopy
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Raman microscopy is a tool used by physicists to collect molecular information from a wide variety of samples. Biophysicists have increasingly made use of Raman microscopy in combination with optical tweezers to identify the molecular makeup of structures inside cells. There are high levels of background and noise in Raman spectra from cells, however, that obscure low intensity scattering peaks and prevent complete molecular characterization. We have designed and built a Mechanical Modulation Raman Microscope(MMRM) that is capable of background subtraction and noise reduction for Raman spectra from cells in vivo. There are two mechanisms of modulation: (1) three-axis stage modulation for objects fixed to the coverslip and (2) separate optical trap modulation for objects in solution. In both cases, objects of interest are modulated in and out of the Raman excitation volume while spectra are collected. Difference spectra are created by subtracting the spectrum without the object from the spectrum including the object. These difference spectra are averaged over the number of cycles of modulation. With the mechanical modulation technique, the background in Raman spectra is removed, and the signal-to-noise ratio is improved by two orders of magnitude. This technique was applied to fission yeast cells. Mechanical modulation Raman spectra of exponentially growing cells and starved cells were collected in three dimensions, and spatial differences were observed in the molecular composition for different metabolic states of individual yeast cells.