For a better understanding of the mechanisms behind cellular functions, quantification of the heterogeneity in an organism or cells is essential. Recently, the importance of quantifying temperature has been highlighted, as it correlates with biochemical reaction rates. Several methods for detecting intracellular temperature have recently been established. Here we develop a novel method for sensing temperature in living cells based on the imaging technique of fluorescence of quantum dots. We apply the method to quantify the temperature difference in a human derived neuronal cell line, SH-SY5Y. Our results show that temperatures in the cell body and neurites are different and thus suggest that inhomogeneous heat production and dissipation happen in a cell. We estimate that heterogeneous heat dissipation results from the characteristic shape of neuronal cells, which consist of several compartments formed with different surface-volume ratios. Inhomogeneous heat production is attributable to the localization of specific organelles as the heat source.
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