Protein and peptides in pictures: imaging with MALDI mass spectrometry

Proteomics. 2008 Sep;8(18):3785-800. doi: 10.1002/pmic.200800320.


Imaging using MS has the potential to deliver highly parallel, multiplexed data on the specific localization of molecular ions in tissue samples directly, and to measure and map the variations of these ions during development and disease progression or treatment. There is an intrinsic potential to be able to identify the biomarkers in the same experiment, or by relatively simple extension of the technique. Unlike many other imaging techniques, no a priori knowledge of the markers being sought is necessary. This review concentrates on the use of MALDI-MS for MS imaging (MSI) of proteins and peptides, with an emphasis on mammalian tissue. We discuss the methodologies used, their potential limitations, overall experimental considerations and progress that has been made towards establishing MALDI-MSI as a routine technique for the spatially resolved measurement of peptides and proteins. As well as determining the local abundance of individual molecular ions, there is the potential to determine their identity within the same experiment using relatively simple extensions of the basic techniques. In this way MSI offers an important opportunity for biomarker discovery and identification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Peptide Mapping / methods
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods
  • Tissue Preservation / methods


  • Biomarkers
  • Peptides
  • Proteins