Laser Microdissection-Based Protocol for the LC-MS/MS Analysis of the Proteomic Profile of Neuromelanin Granules

J Vis Exp. 2021 Dec 16;(178). doi: 10.3791/63289.


Neuromelanin is a black-brownish pigment, present in so-called neuromelanin granules (NMGs) in dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta. Besides neuromelanin, NMGs contain a variety of proteins, lipids, and metals. Although NMGs-containing dopaminergic neurons are preferentially lost in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies, only little is known about the mechanism of NMG formation and the role of NMGs in health and disease. Thus, further research on the molecular characterization of NMGs is essential. Unfortunately, standard protocols for the isolation of proteins are based on density gradient ultracentrifugation and therefore require high amounts of human tissue. Thus, an automated laser microdissection (LMD)-based protocol is established here which allows the collection of NMGs and surrounding substantia nigra (SN) tissue using minimal amounts of tissue in an unbiased, automatized way. Excised samples are subsequently analyzed by mass spectrometry to decipher their proteomic composition. With this workflow, 2,079 proteins were identified of which 514 proteins were exclusively identified in NMGs and 181 in SN. The present results have been compared with a previous study using a similar LMD-based approach reaching an overlap of 87.6% for both proteomes, verifying the applicability of the revised and optimized protocol presented here. To validate current findings, proteins of interest were analyzed by targeted mass spectrometry, e.g., parallel reaction monitoring (PRM)-experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Humans
  • Laser Capture Microdissection
  • Lasers
  • Melanins
  • Proteomics* / methods
  • Substantia Nigra / metabolism
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry*


  • Melanins
  • neuromelanin