PURPOSE - To develop a method for generating high spatial resolution (10 µm) matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) images of lipids in rodent optic nerve tissue.
METHODS - Ice-embedded optic nerve tissue from rats and mice were cryosectioned across the coronal and sagittal axes of the nerve fiber. Sections were thaw mounted on gold-coated MALDI plates and were washed with ammonium acetate to remove biologic salts before being coated in 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid by sublimation. MALDI images were generated in positive and negative ion modes at 10 µm spatial resolution. Lipid identification was performed with a high mass resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer.
RESULTS - Several lipid species were observed with high signal intensity in MALDI images of optic nerve tissue. Several lipids were localized to specific structures including in the meninges surrounding the optic nerve and in the central neuronal tissue. Specifically, phosphatidylcholine species were observed throughout the nerve tissue in positive ion mode while sulfatide species were observed in high abundance in the meninges surrounding the optic nerve in negative ion mode. Accurate mass measurements and fragmentation using sustained off-resonance irradiation with a high mass resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer instrument allowed for identification of lipid species present in the small structure of the optic nerve directly from tissue sections.
CONCLUSIONS - An optimized sample preparation method provides excellent sensitivity for lipid species present within optic nerve tissue. This allowed the laser spot size and fluence to be reduced to obtain a high spatial resolution of 10 µm. This new imaging modality can now be applied to determine spatial and molecular changes in optic nerve tissue with disease.