Combining MALDI mass spectrometry imaging and droplet-base surface sampling analysis for tissue distribution, metabolite profiling, and relative quantification of cyclic peptide melanotan II

Anal Chim Acta. 2020 Aug 15:1125:279-287. doi: 10.1016/j.aca.2020.05.050. Epub 2020 May 24.


Peptides have become a fast-growing segment of the pharmaceutical industry over the past few decades. It is essential to develop cutting edge analytical techniques to support the discovery and development of peptide therapeutics, especially to examine their absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) properties. Herein, we utilized two label-free mass spectrometry (MS) based techniques to investigate representative challenges in developing therapeutic peptides, such as tissue distribution, metabolic stability and clearance. A tool proof-of-concept cyclic peptide, melanotan II, was used in this study. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI), which is a well-developed label-free imaging technique, was used to map the detailed molecular distribution of melanotan II and its metabolites. Droplet-based liquid microjunction surface sampling liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry (LMJ-SSP-LC-HRMS) was used in combination with MALDI-MSI to rapidly profile molecular information and provide structural insights on drug and metabolites. Using both techniques in parallel allowed a more comprehensive and complementary data set than using either technique independently. We envision MALDI-MSI and droplet-based LMJ-SSP-LC-HRMS, which can be used in combination or as standalone techniques, to become valuable tools for assessing the in vivo fate of peptide therapeutics in support of drug discovery and development.

Keywords: Cyclic peptide; Droplet-based liquid extraction; Liquid microjunction; Mass spectrometry imaging; Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI); Melanotan II; Metabolite identification; Surface sampling; Tissue distribution; Whole-body analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Male
  • Metabolome
  • Mice
  • Peptides, Cyclic / analysis*
  • Peptides, Cyclic / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Tissue Distribution
  • alpha-MSH / analogs & derivatives*
  • alpha-MSH / analysis
  • alpha-MSH / metabolism


  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • melanotan-II
  • alpha-MSH