Mass spectrometry imaging

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Mass spectrometry imaging (also known as imaging mass spectrometry) is a technique used in mass spectrometry to visualize the spatial distribution of e.g. compounds, biomarker, metabolites, peptides or proteins by their molecular masses. Emerging technologies in the field of MSI are MALDI imaging and secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging (SIMS imaging).[1][2]

SIMS Imaging[edit]

Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) is used to analyze solid surfaces and thin films by sputtering the surface with a focused primary ion beam and collecting and analyzing ejected secondary ions. SIMS imaging is performed in a manner similar to electron microscopy; the primary ion beam is rastered across the sample while secondary mass spectra are recorded.[3]

Multiplexed ion beam imaging (MIBI) is a SIMS method that uses metal isotope labeled antibodies to label compounds in biological samples.[4]

MALDI imaging[edit]

Main article: MALDI imaging

Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization can be used as a mass spectrometry imaging technique for relatively large molecules.[2] In this version of the technique the sample, typically a thin tissue section, is moved in two dimensions while the mass spectrum is recorded.[5]

Ambient ionization methods[edit]

Ambient ionization methods such as desorption electrospray ionization (DESI)[6] and matrix-assisted laser desorption electrospray ionization (MALDESI)[7] have also been employed for MSI.

Standard data format for mass spectrometry imaging datasets[edit]

As an extension of the mzML standard format developed by HUPO for mass spectrometry datasets, the Computis project developed the imzML standard format for mass spectrometry imaging datasets.[8]


There are large amounts of free software packages available for visualization and mining of imaging mass spectrometry data. Converters from Thermo Fisher format, Analyze format, GRD format and Bruker format to imzML format were developed by the Computis project. Some software modules are also available for viewing mass spectrometry images in imzML format: Biomap] (Novartis, free), Datacube Explorer (AMOLF, free),[9] EasyMSI (CEA), Mirion (JLU), MSiReader (NCSU, free).[10] In addition the following commercial software suites for MALDI imaging are available: MALDIVision, Quantinetix, and SCiLS Lab.


  1. ^ Rohner T, Staab D, Stoeckli M (2005). "MALDI mass spectrometric imaging of biological tissue sections". Mechanisms of Ageing and Development 126 (1): 177–185. doi:10.1016/j.mad.2004.09.032. PMID 15610777. 
  2. ^ a b McDonnell LA, Heeren RM (2007). "Imaging mass spectrometry". Mass spectrometry reviews 26 (4): 606–43. doi:10.1002/mas.20124. PMID 17471576. 
  3. ^ Penner-Hahn, James E. (2013). "Chapter 2. Technologies for Detecting Metals in Single Cells. Section 2.1, Secondary Ion Mass Specctrometry". In Banci, Lucia (Ed.). Metallomics and the Cell. Metal Ions in Life Sciences 12. Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-5561-1_2. ISBN 978-94-007-5560-4. electronic-book ISBN 978-94-007-5561-1 ISSN 1559-0836electronic-ISSN 1868-0402
  4. ^ Angelo, Michael; Bendall, Sean C; Finck, Rachel; Hale, Matthew B; Hitzman, Chuck; Borowsky, Alexander D; Levenson, Richard M; Lowe, John B; Liu, Scot D; Zhao, Shuchun; Natkunam, Yasodha; Nolan, Garry P (2014). "Multiplexed ion beam imaging of human breast tumors". Nature Medicine 20 (4): 436–442. doi:10.1038/nm.3488. ISSN 1078-8956. 
  5. ^ Chaurand P, Norris JL, Cornett DS, Mobley JA, Caprioli RM (2006). "New developments in profiling and imaging of proteins from tissue sections by MALDI mass spectrometry". J. Proteome Res. 5 (11): 2889–900. doi:10.1021/pr060346u. PMID 17081040. 
  6. ^ Ifa DR, Wiseman JM, Song Q, Cooks RG (2007). "Development of capabilities for imaging mass spectrometry under ambient conditions with desorption electrospray ionization (DESI)". International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 259 (1-3): 8–15. doi:10.1016/j.ijms.2006.08.003. 
  7. ^ Robichaud, G., Barry, J.A., Garrard, K. P., Muddiman, D.C. (2013) "Infrared Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Electrospray Ionization (IR-MALDESI) Imaging Source Coupled to a FT-ICR Mass Spectrometer." J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 24, 92-100, doi:10.1007/s13361-012-0505-9 .
  8. ^ A. Römpp, T. Schramm, A. Hester, I. Klinkert, J.P. Both, R.M.A. Heeren, M. Stoeckli, B. Spengler (2011). Methods in Molecular Biology, Humana Press, New York 696. pp. 205–224. 
  9. ^ Klinkert, I.; Chughtai, K.; Ellis, S. R.; Heeren, R. M. A. (2014). "Methods for Full Resolution Data Exploration and Visualization for Large 2D and 3D Mass Spectrometry Imaging Datasets". International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 362: 40–47. doi:10.1016/j.ijms.2013.12.012.  edit
  10. ^ Robichaud, G.; Garrard, K. P.; Barry, J. A.; Muddiman, D. C. (2013). "MSiReader: An Open-Source Interface to View and Analyze High Resolving Power MS Imaging Files on Matlab Platform". Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry 24 (5): 718–721. doi:10.1007/s13361-013-0607-z. PMID 23536269.  edit