Imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) has become a powerful tool to characterize the spatial distribution of biomolecules in thin tissue sections. In the case of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) IMS, homogeneous matrix deposition is critical to produce high-quality ion images, and sublimation in particular has shown to be an excellent matrix deposition method for the imaging of lipids. Matrix deposition by sublimation is, however, a completely solvent-free system, which ought to prevent the mixing of matrix and analytes thought to be necessary for successful MALDI. Using 3D time-of-flight secondary ion imaging mass spectrometry, we have studied the matrix tissue interface in 3D with high resolution to understand the MALDI process of lipids after matrix deposition by sublimation. There is a strong indication that diffusion is the process by which lipids migrate from the tissue to the matrix layer. We show that triacylglycerols and phospholipids have a delayed migratory trend as compared to diacylglycerols and monoacylglycerols, which is dependent on time and matrix thickness. Additional experiments show that a pure lipid's capacity to migrate into the matrix is dependent on its fluidity at room temperature. Furthermore, it is shown that cholesterol can only migrate in the presence of a (fluid) lipid and appears to fluidize lipids, which could explain its colocalization with the diacylglycerols and monoacylglycerols in the matrix.
- CLUSTER ION-BEAMS