Enhancement of Tryptic Peptide Signals from Tissue Sections using MALDI IMS Post-ionization (MALDI-2)

29 January 2021, Version 3
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI IMS) allows for highly multiplexed, unlabeled mapping of analytes from tissue sections. However, further work is needed to improve sensitivity and depth of coverage for protein and peptide IMS. Laser-based post-ionization MALDI-2 has been shown to increase sensitivity for several molecular classes but thus far this has not been reported for peptides. Here, we demonstrate signal enhancement of proteolytic peptides from thin tissue sections of human kidney by conventional MALDI (termed MALDI-1), and conventional MALDI augmented using a second ionizing laser (termed MALDI-2). Proteins were digested in situ using trypsin prior to IMS analysis. For identification of peptides and proteins, a tissue homogenate was analyzed by LC-MS/MS for bottom-up proteomics and the corresponding proteins identified. These proteins were next fully ‘digested in silico’ to generate a database of theoretical peptides to then match to MALDI IMS datasets. Peptides were tentatively identified by matching the MALDI peak list to the database peptide list employing a 5 ppm error window. This resulted in 314 ± 45 (n=3) peptides and 1 112 ± 84 (n=3) peptides for MALDI-1 and MALDI-2, respectively. Protein identifications were similarly made by linking IMS data to the LC-MS/MS peptide database. With positive protein identifications requiring two or more peptides per protein, 55 ± 13 proteins were identified with MALDI-1 and 205 ± 10 with MALDI-2. These results demonstrate that MALDI-2 provides enhanced sensitivity for the spatial mapping of tryptic peptides and significantly increases the number of proteins identified in IMS experiments.


imaging mass spectrometry
matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry
imaging mass spectrometry techniques
peptide imaging
protein imaging mass spectrometry
Spatial proteomics

Supplementary materials

McMillen Supplemental-file MALDI-2 peptides


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