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Review article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Unravel the Local Complexity of Biological Environments by MALDI Mass Spectrometry Imaging

Sgobba, Elvira; Daguerre, Yohann; Giampa, Marco


Classic metabolomic methods have proven to be very useful to study functional biology and variation in the chemical composition of different tissues. However, they do not provide any information in terms of spatial localization within fine structures. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI MSI) does and reaches at best a spatial resolution of 0.25 mu m depending on the laser setup, making it a very powerful tool to analyze the local complexity of biological samples at the cellular level. Here, we intend to give an overview of the diversity of the molecules and localizations analyzed using this method as well as to update on the latest adaptations made to circumvent the complexity of samples. MALDI MSI has been widely used in medical sciences and is now developing in research areas as diverse as entomology, microbiology, plant biology, and plant-microbe interactions, the rhizobia symbiosis being the most exhaustively described so far. Those are the fields of interest on which we will focus to demonstrate MALDI MSI strengths in characterizing the spatial distributions of metabolites, lipids, and peptides in relation to biological questions.


MALDI MSI; metabolomics; imaging; plants; microbiology; lipidomics

Published in

International Journal of Molecular Sciences
2021, Volume: 22, number: 22, article number: 12393
Publisher: MDPI