Quantitation of spatially-localized protein in tissue samples using MALDI-MRM imaging




Clemis, Elizabeth J.

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MALDI imaging allows the creation of a molecular image of a tissue slice. This image is reconstructed from the ion abundances in spectra that are obtained while rastering the laser over the tissue. These images can then be correlated with tissue histology to detect potential biomarkers of, for example, aberrant cell types. MALDI is known to have problems with ion suppression, making it difficult to correlate measured ion abundance with concentration. It would be advantageous to have a method that can provide more accurate protein concentration measurements, particularly for screening applications or for precise comparisons between samples. My hypothesis was that a method based on multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) with isotopically-labelled internal standards can be developed which would allow the accurate quantitation of proteins in MALDI Imaging. This study reports on the development of this novel MALDI Imaging method for the localization and accurate quantitation of proteins in tissues. This method involves optimization of in-situ tryptic digestion, followed by reproducible and uniform deposition of an isotopically-labelled standard peptide from a target protein onto the tissue, using an aerosol-generating device. Data is acquired by MALDI-MRM-MS and accurate peptide quantitation is determined from the ratio of MRM transitions for the endogenous unlabelled proteolytic peptides to the corresponding transitions from the applied isotopically-labelled standard peptides. In a parallel experiment, the quantity of the labelled peptide applied to the tissue was determined using a standard curve generated from MALDI-TOF-MS data. This external calibration curve was then used to extrapolate the quantity of endogenous peptide in a given area. All standard curves generated by this method had coefficients of determination greater than 0.97. These proof-of-concept experiments using MALDI MRM-based imaging show the feasibility of obtaining precise and accurate quantitation of tissue protein concentrations over two orders of magnitude, while maintaining the spatial localization information for the proteins.



Mass Spectrometry, MALDI Imaging, Protein quantitation, Method development, MALDI MRM