Lipid Diversity in Cells and Tissue Using Imaging SIMS
Lipids are an important class of biomolecules with many roles within cells and tissue. As targets for study, they present several challenges. They are difficult to label, as many labels lack the specificity to the many different lipid species or the labels maybe larger than the lipids themselves, thus severely perturbing the natural chemical environment. Mass spectrometry provides exceptional specificity and is often used to examine lipid extracts from different samples. However, spatial information is lost during extraction. Of the different imaging mass spectrometry methods available, secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) is unique in its ability to analyze very small features, with probe sizes <50 nm available. It also offers high surface sensitivity and 3D imaging capability on a subcellular scale. This article reviews the current capabilities and some remaining challenges associated with imaging the diverse lipids present in cell and tissue samples. We show how the technique has moved beyond show-and-tell, proof-of-principle analysis and is now being used to address real biological challenges. These include imaging the microenvironment of cancer tumors, probing the pathophysiology of traumatic brain injury, or tracking the lipid composition through bacterial membranes.
secondary ion mass spectrometry