The critical questions into the cause of neural degeneration, in Alzheimer disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, are closely related to the question of why certain neurons survive. Answers require detailed understanding of biochemical changes in single cells. Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy is an excellent tool for biomolecular imaging in situ, but resolution is limited. The mid-infrared beamline IRENI (InfraRed ENvironmental Imaging) at the Synchrotron Radiation Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, enables label-free subcellular imaging and biochemical analysis of neurons with an increase of two orders of magnitude in pixel spacing over current systems. With IRENI's capabilities, it is now possible to study changes in individual neurons in situ, and to characterize their surroundings, using only the biochemical signatures of naturally-occurring components in unstained, unfixed tissue. We present examples of analyses of brain from two transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer disease (TgCRND8 and 3xTg) that exhibit different features of pathogenesis. Data processing on spectral features for nuclei reveals individual hippocampal neurons, and neurons located in the proximity of amyloid plaque in TgCRND8 mouse. Elevated lipids are detected surrounding and, for the first time, within the dense core of amyloid plaques, offering support for inflammatory and aggregation roles. Analysis of saturated and unsaturated fatty acid ester content in retina allows characterization of neuronal layers. IRENI images also reveal spatially-resolved data with unprecedented clarity and distinct spectral variation, from sub-regions including photoreceptors, neuronal cell bodies and synapses in sections of mouse retina. Biochemical composition of retinal layers can be used to study changes related to disease processes and dietary modification.Highlights
□ FTIR imaging can be used to examine individual neuron bodies in situ. □ Unstained, unfixed tissues are characterized by their FTIR spectrochemical signatures. □ We demonstrate label-free FTIR imaging of subcellular organization. □ Dense core amyloid plaques are infiltrated with lipid, in a mouse model of AD. □ Natural spectrobiochemical signatures reveal composition of neuron layers in retina.