Monitoring the three-dimensional distribution of endogenous species in the lungs by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging

B. Flinders, J. Morrell, P.S. Marshall, L.E. Ranshaw, R.M.A. Heeren, M.R. Clench*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Rationale Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) is routinely employed to monitor the distribution of compounds in tissue sections and generate two-dimensional (2D) images. Whilst informative the images do not represent the distribution of the analyte of interest through the entire organ. The generation of 3D images is an exciting field that can provide a deeper view of the analyte of interest throughout an entire organ.Methods Serial sections of mouse and rat lung tissue were obtained at 120 mu m depth intervals and imaged individually. Homogenate registration markers were incorporated in order to aid the final 3D image construction. Using freely available software packages, the images were stacked together to generate a 3D image that showed the distribution of endogenous species throughout the lungs.Results Preliminary tests were performed on 16 serial tissue sections of mouse lungs. A 3D model showing the distribution of phosphocholine at m/z 184.09 was constructed, which defined the external structure of the lungs and trachea. Later, a second experiment was performed using 24 serial tissue sections of the left lung of a rat. Two molecular markers, identified as [PC (32:1) + K](+) at m/z 770.51 and [PC (36:4) + K](+) at m/z 820.52, were used to generate 3D models of the parenchyma and airways, respectively.Conclusions A straightforward method to generate 3D MALDI-MS images of selected molecules in lung tissue has been presented. Using freely available imaging software, the 3D distributions of molecules related to different anatomical features were determined.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8957
Number of pages10
JournalRapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021


  • ionization
  • mouse-brain
  • tissues

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