Cyanotoxins can be found in water and air during cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cHABs) in lakes and rivers. Therefore, it is very important to monitor their potential uptake by animals and humans as well as their health effects and distribution in affected organs. Herein, the distribution of hepatotoxic peptide microcystin-LR (MC-LR) is investigated in liver tissues of mice gavaged with this most common MC congener. Preliminary matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) imaging experiments performed using a non-automated MALDI matrix deposition device and a MALDI-time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometer yielded ambiguous results in terms of MC-LR distribution in liver samples obtained from MC-LR-gavaged mice. The tissue preparation for MALDI-MS imaging was improved by using an automated sprayer for matrix deposition, and liver sections were imaged using an Nd:YAG MALDI laser coupled to a 15 Tesla Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR)-mass spectrometer. MALDI-FT-ICR-MS imaging provided unambiguous detection of protonated MC-LR (calculated m/z 995.5560, z = +1) and the sodium adduct of MC-LR (m/z 1017.5380, z = +1) in liver sections from gavaged mice with great mass accuracy and ultra-high mass resolution. Since both covalently bound and free MC-LR can be found in liver of mice exposed to this toxin, the present results indicate that the distribution of free microcystins in tissue sections from affected organs, such as liver, can be monitored with high-resolution MALDI-MS imaging.
Keywords: FT-ICR; MALDI-MS; MC-LR; imaging; liver; microcystins.