Mass spectrometric imaging (MSI) is an analytical technique used to determine the distribution of individual analytes within a given sample. A wide array of analytes and samples can be investigated by MSI, including drug distribution in rats, lipid analysis from brain tissue, protein differentiation in tumors, and plant metabolite distributions. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) is a soft ionization technique capable of desorbing and ionizing a large range of compounds, and it is the most common ionization source used in MSI. MALDI mass spectrometry (MS) is generally considered to be a qualitative analytical technique because of significant ion-signal variability. Consequently, MSI is also thought to be a qualitative technique because of the quantitative limitations of MALDI coupled with the homogeneity of tissue sections inherent in an MSI experiment. Thus, conclusions based on MS images are often limited by the inability to correlate ion signal increases with actual concentration increases. Here, we report a quantitative MSI method for the analysis of cocaine (COC) from brain tissue using a deuterated internal standard (COC-d3) combined with wide-isolation MS/MS for analysis of the tissue extracts with scan-by-scan COC-to-COC-d3 normalization. This resulted in significant improvements in signal reproducibility and calibration curve linearity. Quantitative results from the MSI experiments were compared with quantitative results from liquid chromatography (LC)-MS/MS results from brain tissue extracts. Two different quantitative MSI techniques (standard addition and external calibration) produced quantitative results comparable to LC-MS/MS data. Tissue extracts were also analyzed by MALDI wide-isolation MS/MS, and quantitative results were nearly identical to those from LC-MS/MS. These results clearly demonstrate the necessity for an internal standard for quantitative MSI experiments.

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Publisher ACS
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Journal Anal. Chem.
Pirman, D.A, Reich, R, Kiss, A, Heeren, R.M.A, & Yost, R.A. (2013). Quantitative MALDI Tandem Mass Spectrometric Imaging of Cocaine from Brain Tissue with a Deuterated Internal Standard. Anal. Chem., 85(2), 1081–1089. doi:10.1021/ac302960j