3D DESI-MS lipid imaging in a xenograft model of glioblastoma: a proof of principle

Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 5;10(1):16512. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-73518-x.


Desorption electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry (DESI-MS) can image hundreds of molecules in a 2D tissue section, making it an ideal tool for mapping tumour heterogeneity. Tumour lipid metabolism has gained increasing attention over the past decade; and here, lipid heterogeneity has been visualised in a glioblastoma xenograft tumour using 3D DESI-MS imaging. The use of an automatic slide loader automates 3D imaging for high sample-throughput. Glioblastomas are highly aggressive primary brain tumours, which display heterogeneous characteristics and are resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It is therefore important to understand biochemical contributions to their heterogeneity, which may be contributing to treatment resistance. Adjacent sections to those used for DESI-MS imaging were used for H&E staining and immunofluorescence to identify different histological regions, and areas of hypoxia. Comparing DESI-MS imaging with biological staining allowed association of different lipid species with hypoxic and viable tissue within the tumour, and hence mapping of molecularly different tumour regions in 3D space. This work highlights that lipids are playing an important role in the heterogeneity of this xenograft tumour model, and DESI-MS imaging can be used for lipid 3D imaging in an automated fashion to reveal heterogeneity, which is not apparent in H&E stains alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Glioblastoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heterografts / diagnostic imaging
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays / methods


  • Lipids