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Mass spectrometry imaging of biological tissue: an approach for multicenter studies


Mass spectrometry imaging has become a popular tool for probing the chemical complexity of biological surfaces. This led to the development of a wide range of instrumentation and preparation protocols. It is thus desirable to evaluate and compare the data output from different methodologies and mass spectrometers. Here, we present an approach for the comparison of mass spectrometry imaging data from different laboratories (often referred to as multicenter studies). This is exemplified by the analysis of mouse brain sections in five laboratories in Europe and the USA. The instrumentation includes matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI)-time-of-flight (TOF), MALDI-QTOF, MALDI-Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FTICR), atmospheric-pressure (AP)-MALDI-Orbitrap, and cluster TOF-secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS). Experimental parameters such as measurement speed, imaging bin width, and mass spectrometric parameters are discussed. All datasets were converted to the standard data format imzML and displayed in a common open-source software with identical parameters for visualization, which facilitates direct comparison of MS images. The imzML conversion also allowed exchange of fully functional MS imaging datasets between the different laboratories. The experiments ranged from overview measurements of the full mouse brain to detailed analysis of smaller features (depending on spatial resolution settings), but common histological features such as the corpus callosum were visible in all measurements. High spatial resolution measurements of AP-MALDI-Orbitrap and TOF-SIMS showed comparable structures in the low-micrometer range. We discuss general considerations for planning and performing multicenter studies in mass spectrometry imaging. This includes details on the selection, distribution, and preparation of tissue samples as well as on data handling. Such multicenter studies in combination with ongoing activities for reporting guidelines, a common data format (imzML) and a public data repository can contribute to more reliability and transparency of MS imaging studies.

Comparison of MS imaging platforms in international multicenter study

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This work was supported by the European Union (Contract LSHG-CT-2005-518194 COMPUTIS). JLU acknowledges support by the Hessian Ministry of Science and Art (LOEWE focus Ambiprobe) and the European Research Council Starting Grant of Zoltan Takats. Alexandre Seyer is indebted to the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles for a Ph.D. research fellowship. A portion of the research was performed using EMSL, a national scientific user facility sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research and located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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Correspondence to Andreas Römpp or Donald F. Smith.

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Published in the topical collection Mass Spectrometry Imaging with guest editors Andreas Römpp and Uwe Karst.

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Römpp, A., Both, JP., Brunelle, A. et al. Mass spectrometry imaging of biological tissue: an approach for multicenter studies. Anal Bioanal Chem 407, 2329–2335 (2015).

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  • Mass spectrometry imaging
  • Multicenter studies
  • Multimodal imaging
  • Data format imzML
  • Data handling and processing