Towards High-Resolution Tissue Imaging Using Nanospray Desorption Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry Coupled to Shear Force Microscopy

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2018 Feb;29(2):316-322. doi: 10.1007/s13361-017-1750-8. Epub 2017 Jul 28.


Constant mode ambient mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) of tissue sections with high lateral resolution of better than 10 μm was performed by combining shear force microscopy with nanospray desorption electrospray ionization (nano-DESI). Shear force microscopy enabled precise control of the distance between the sample and nano-DESI probe during MSI experiments and provided information on sample topography. Proof-of-concept experiments were performed using lung and brain tissue sections representing spongy and dense tissues, respectively. Topography images obtained using shear force microscopy were comparable to the results obtained using contact profilometry over the same region of the tissue section. Variations in tissue height were found to be dependent on the tissue type and were in the range of 0-5 μm for lung tissue and 0-3 μm for brain tissue sections. Ion images of phospholipids obtained in this study are in good agreement with literature data. Normalization of nano-DESI MSI images to the signal of the internal standard added to the extraction solvent allowed us to construct high-resolution ion images free of matrix effects. Graphical Abstract ᅟ.

Keywords: High-resolution imaging mass spectrometry; Metabolites; Mouse lung tissue; Nanospray desorption electrospray ionization (nano-DESI); Phospholipids; Shear force microscopy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Lung / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / instrumentation
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / methods*
  • Optical Imaging / instrumentation
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Phospholipids / analysis*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / instrumentation
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*


  • Phospholipids