Norharmane matrix enhances detection of endotoxin by MALDI-MS for simultaneous profiling of pathogen, host and vector systems

Alison J. Scott, Bryn Flinders, Jo Cappell, Tao Liang, Rebecca S. Pelc, Bao Tran, David P. A. Kilgour, Ron M. A. Heeren, David R. Goodlett, Robert K. Ernst*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Web of Science)


The discovery of novel pathogenic mechanisms engaged during bacterial infections requires the evolution of advanced techniques. Here, we evaluate the dual polarity matrix norharmane (NRM) to improve detection of bacterial lipid A (endotoxin), from host and vector tissues infected with Francisella novicida (Fn). We evaluated NRM for improved detection and characterization of a wide range of lipids in both positive and negative polarities, including lipid A and phospholipids across a range of matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization-coupled applications. NRM matrix improved the limit of detection (LOD) for monophosphoryl lipid A (MPLA) down to picogram level representing a 10-fold improvement of LOD versus 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid and 100-fold improvement of LOD versus 9-aminoacridine (9-AA). Improved LOD for lipid A subsequently facilitated detection of the Fn lipid A major ion (m/z 1665) from extracts of infected mouse spleen and the temperature-modified Fn lipid A at m/z 1637 from infected Dermacentor variabilis ticks. Finally, we simultaneously mapped bacterial phospholipid signatures within an Fn-infected spleen along with an exclusively host-derived inositol-based phospholipid (m/z 933) demonstrating coprofiling of the host-pathogen interaction. Expanded use of NRM matrix in other infection models and endotoxin-targeting imaging experiments will improve our understanding of the lipid interactions at the host-pathogen interface.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberftw097
JournalPathogens and Disease
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • mass spectrometry imaging
  • host-pathogen interaction
  • endotoxin

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