Streamlined Analysis of Cardiolipins in Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Samples Using a Norharmane Matrix by MALDI-MSI

Hyojik Yang, Shelley N. Jackson, Amina S. Woods, David R. Goodlett, Robert K. Ernst*, Alison J. Scott*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Cardiolipins (CLs) are an important, regulated lipid class both in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, yet they remain largely unexplored by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) in tissues. To date, no in-depth optimization studies of label-free visualization of CLs in complex biological samples have been reported. Here we report a streamlined modification to our previously reported MALDI-MSI method for detection of endogenous CLs in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells based on preparation with norharmane (NRM) matrix. Notably, the use of NRM matrix permitted sensitive detection (4.7 pg/mm(2)) of spotted CL synthetic standards. By contrast, four other MALDI matrices commonly used for lipid analysis failed to generate CL ions. Using this NRM-based method, endogenous CLs were detected from two types of complex biological samples: dried bacterial arrays and mouse tissue sections. In both cases, using NRM resulted in a better signal/noise for CL ions than the other matrices. Furthermore, inclusion of a washing step improved CL detection from tissue and this combined tissue preparation method (washing and NRM matrix) was used to profile normal mouse lung. Mouse lung yielded 26 unique CLs that were mapped and identified. Consistent with previous findings, CLs containing polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) were found in abundance in the airway and vascular features of the lung. This work represents a comprehensive investigation of detection conditions for CL using MALDI-MSI in complex biological samples that resulted in a streamlined method that enables future studies of the biological role(s) of CL in tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2495-2502
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020


  • mass spectrometry imaging
  • norharmane (NRM)
  • cardiolipin
  • eukaryotic lipids
  • prokaryotic lipids


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