Proteomics in diagnostic pathology: profiling and imaging proteins directly in tissue sections

Am J Pathol. 2004 Oct;165(4):1057-68. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)63367-6.


Direct tissue profiling and imaging mass spectrometry (MS) provide a molecular assessment of numerous expressed proteins within a tissue sample. MALDI MS (matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization) analysis of thin tissue sections results in the visualization of 500 to 1000 individual protein signals in the molecular weight range from 2000 to over 200,000. These signals directly correlate with protein distribution within a specific region of the tissue sample. The systematic investigation of the section allows the construction of ion density maps, or specific molecular images, for virtually every signal detected in the analysis. Ultimately, hundreds of images, each at a specific molecular weight, may be obtained. To date, profiling and imaging MS has been applied to multiple diseased tissues, including human non-small cell lung tumors, gliomas, and breast tumors. Interrogation of the resulting complex MS data sets using modern biocomputational tools has resulted in identification of both disease-state and patient-prognosis specific protein patterns. These studies suggest that such proteomic information will become more and more important in assessing disease progression, prognosis, and drug efficacy. Molecular histology has been known for some time and its value clear in the field of pathology. Imaging mass spectrometry brings a new dimension of molecular data, one focusing on the disease phenotype. The present article reviews the state of the art of the technology and its complementarity with traditional histopathological analyses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pathology, Clinical* / methods
  • Pathology, Clinical* / trends
  • Proteins / analysis*
  • Proteomics* / methods
  • Proteomics* / trends
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods


  • Proteins