Tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) is often used to identify lipids in matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI IMS) workflows. The molecular specificity afforded by MS/MS is crucial on MALDI time-of-flight (TOF) platforms that generally lack high resolution accurate mass measurement capabilities. Unfortunately, imaging MS/MS workflows generally only monitor a single precursor ion over the imaged area, limiting the throughput of this methodology. Herein, we demonstrate that multiple TOF/TOF events performed in each laser shot can be used to improve the throughput of imaging MS/MS. This is shown to enable the simultaneous identification of multiple phosphatidylcholine lipids in rat brain tissue. Uniquely, the separation in time achieved for the precursor ions in the TOF-1 region of the instrument is maintained for the fragment ions as they are analyzed in TOF-2, allowing for the differentiation of fragment ions of the exact same m/z derived from different precursor ions (e.g., the m/z 163 fragment ion from precursor ion m/z 772.5 is easily distinguished from the m/z 163 fragment ion from precursor ion m/z 826.5). This multiplexed imaging MS/MS approach allows for the acquisition of complete fragment ion spectra for multiple precursor ions per laser shot.
Keywords: MALDI; MS/MS; Multiplexed; imaging mass spectrometry; lipid.