Mass spectrometry imaging with laser-induced postionization

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Science  10 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6231, pp. 211-215
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1051

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Imaging lipid composition

Chemical imaging of cell membranes can be performed with matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI), but low ionization efficiency often leads to a signal dominated by the main lipid components, such as abundant phosphatidylcholine species. Soltwisch et al. used a tunable laser for post-ionization of neutral species to boost the signal for other membrane components, such as cholesterol and phospho- and glycolipids. Imaging of cells and tissues with these methods allows differentiation based on a more extensive chemical signature.

Science, this issue p. 211


Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) can simultaneously record the lateral distribution of numerous biomolecules in tissue slices, but its sensitivity is restricted by limited ionization. We used a wavelength-tunable postionization laser to initiate secondary MALDI-like ionization processes in the gas phase. In this way, we could increase the ion yields for numerous lipid classes, liposoluble vitamins, and saccharides, imaged in animal and plant tissue with a 5-micrometer-wide laser spot, by up to two orders of magnitude. Critical parameters for initiation of the secondary ionization processes are pressure of the cooling gas in the ion source, laser wavelength, pulse energy, and delay between the two laser pulses. The technology could enable sensitive MALDI-MS imaging with a lateral resolution in the low micrometer range.

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