Water-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry for minimally invasive in vivo and real-time surface analysis using SpiderMass

Nat Protoc. 2019 Nov;14(11):3162-3182. doi: 10.1038/s41596-019-0217-8. Epub 2019 Oct 9.


Rapid, sensitive, precise and accurate analysis of samples in their native in vivo environment is critical to better decipher physiological and physiopathological mechanisms. SpiderMass is an ambient mass spectrometry (MS) system designed for mobile in vivo and real-time surface analyses of biological tissues. The system uses a fibered laser, which is tuned to excite the most intense vibrational band of water, resulting in a process termed water-assisted laser desorption/ionization (WALDI). The water molecules act as an endogenous matrix in a matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI)-like scenario, leading to the desorption/ionization of biomolecules (lipids, metabolites and proteins). The ejected material is transferred to the mass spectrometer through an atmospheric interface and a transfer line that is several meters long. Here, we formulate a three-stage procedure that includes (i) a laser system setup coupled to a Waters Q-TOF or Thermo Fisher Q Exactive mass analyzer, (ii) analysis of specimens and (iii) data processing. We also describe the optimal setup for the analysis of cell cultures, fresh-frozen tissue sections and in vivo experiments on skin. With proper optimization, the system can be used for a variety of different targets and applications. The entire procedure takes 1-2 d for complex samples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Dogs
  • Equipment Design
  • Frozen Sections
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Skin / chemistry
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / instrumentation
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods*
  • Water / chemistry


  • Water