On-Tissue Derivatization via Electrospray Deposition for Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging of Endogenous Fatty Acids in Rat Brain Tissues

Anal Chem. 2016 Jun 7;88(11):5988-95. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b01021. Epub 2016 May 26.


Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) is used for the multiplex detection and characterization of diverse analytes over a wide mass range directly from tissues. However, analyte coverage with MALDI MSI is typically limited to the more abundant compounds, which have m/z values that are distinct from MALDI matrix-related ions. On-tissue analyte derivatization addresses these issues by selectively tagging functional groups specific to a class of analytes, while simultaneously changing their molecular masses and improving their desorption and ionization efficiency. We evaluated electrospray deposition of liquid-phase derivatization agents as a means of on-tissue analyte derivatization using 2-picolylamine; we were able to detect a range of endogenous fatty acids with MALDI MSI. When compared with airbrush application, electrospray led to a 3-fold improvement in detection limits and decreased analyte delocalization. Six fatty acids were detected and visualized from rat cerebrum tissue using a MALDI MSI instrument operating in positive mode. MALDI MSI of the hippocampal area allowed targeted fatty acid analysis of the dentate gyrus granule cell layer and the CA1 pyramidal layer with a 20-μm pixel width, without degrading the localization of other lipids during liquid-phase analyte derivatization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Fatty Acids / analysis*
  • Male
  • Molecular Structure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization*


  • Fatty Acids