Lipid Coverage in Nanospray Desorption Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging of Mouse Lung Tissues

Anal Chem. 2019 Sep 17;91(18):11629-11635. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.9b02045. Epub 2019 Aug 27.


Lipids are a naturally occurring group of molecules that not only contribute to the structural integrity of the lung preventing alveolar collapse but also play important roles in the anti-inflammatory responses and antiviral protection. Alteration in the type and spatial localization of lipids in the lung plays a crucial role in various diseases, such as respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in preterm infants and oxidative stress-influenced diseases, such as pneumonia, emphysema, and lung cancer following exposure to environmental stressors. The ability to accurately measure spatial distributions of lipids and metabolites in lung tissues provides important molecular insights related to lung function, development, and disease states. Nanospray desorption electrospray ionization (nano-DESI) and other ambient ionization mass spectrometry techniques enable label-free imaging of complex samples in their native state with minimal to absolutely no sample preparation. However, lipid coverage obtained in nano-DESI mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) experiments has not been previously characterized. In this work, the depth of lipid coverage in nano-DESI MSI of mouse lung tissues was compared to liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) lipidomics analysis of tissue extracts prepared using two different procedures: standard Folch extraction method of the whole lung samples and extraction into a 90% methanol/10% water mixture used in nano-DESI MSI experiments. A combination of positive and negative ionization mode nano-DESI MSI identified 265 unique lipids across 20 lipids subclasses and 19 metabolites (284 in total) in mouse lung tissues. Except for triacylglycerols (TG) species, nano-DESI MSI provided comparable coverage to LC-MS/MS experiments performed using methanol/water tissue extracts and up to 50% coverage in comparison with the Folch extraction-based whole lung lipidomics analysis. These results demonstrate the utility of nano-DESI MSI for comprehensive spatially resolved analysis of lipids in tissue sections. A combination of nano-DESI MSI and LC-MS/MS lipidomics is particularly useful for exploring changes in lipid distributions during lung development, as well as resulting from disease or exposure to environmental toxicants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Lipidomics / methods*
  • Lipids / analysis*
  • Lung / chemistry*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Lipids