Hydroxyflavones as a new family of matrices for MALDI tissue imaging

Anal Chem. 2013 Aug 6;85(15):7566-73. doi: 10.1021/ac401595a. Epub 2013 Jul 29.


The discovery of new matrices that are suitable for in situ analysis of low molecular-weight compounds by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) is an important technological aspect of tissue imaging. In this work, ten natural flavonoid compounds, including flavone and nine of its mono- or polyhydroxyl-substituted analogues (3-hydroxyflavone, 5-hydroxyflavone, 3,7-dihydroxyflavone, chrysin, 7,3',4'-trihydroxyflavone, fisetin, luteolin, quercetin, and morin) were evaluated as potential MALDI matrices for the profiling and imaging of endogenous lipids in mouse liver, using a Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FTICR) mass spectrometer with a 355-nm Nd:YAG UV laser, in the positive ion mode. When an electronic sprayer was used for matrix coating and with a high-pH (0.1-0.5% ammonia hydroxide) matrix solvent, eight of the ten compounds, all of which had at least one OH group at the C3 or C5 position of the flavone structure, enabled the successful detection of 77 to 161 phospholipids and other lipids. The best results were observed with two penta-OH flavones (i.e., quercertin and morin). Taking quercetin as an example, this matrix showed characteristics superior to those of commonly used MALDI matrices, such as DHB (2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid), CHCA (α-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid), and 2-mercaptobenzothiazole (2-MBT). These characteristics were: μm-sized matrix crystals, uniform matrix coating, low volatility in the high vacuum (~10(-7) mbar) source, good chemical stability, low yield of matrix-related ions, low matrix consumption, low power threshold for laser desorption/ionization, and improved safety of handling. The use of quercetin led to improved lipid imaging, with 212 lipids being successfully imaged from rat brain in a single experiment and with asymmetric distributions of some lipids in left and right brain hippocampus being observed for the first time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Flavones / chemistry*
  • Lasers
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Molecular Imaging*
  • Rats
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods*


  • Flavones