Lipofuscin, an aging marker in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) associated with the development of age-related macular degeneration, is primarily characterized by its fluorescence. The most abundant component of RPE lipofuscin is N-retinylidene-N-retinylethanolamine (A2E) but its exact composition is not known due to the complexity of the RPE extract. In this study, we utilized MALDI imaging to find potential molecules responsible for lipofuscin fluorescence in RPE tissue from Abca4(-/-) , Sv129, and C57Bl6/J mice aged 2 and 6 months. To assert relationships, the individual images in the MALDI imaging datasets were correlated with lipofuscin fluorescence recorded from the same tissues following proper registration. Spatial correlation information, which is usually lost in bioanalytics, pinpointed a relatively small number of potential lipofuscin components. The comparison of four samples in each condition further limited the possibility of false positives and provided various new, age- and strain-specific targets. Validating the usefulness of the fluorescence-enhanced imaging strategy, many known adducts of A2E were identified in the short list of lipofuscin components. These results provided evidence that mass spectrometric imaging can be utilized as a tool to begin to identify the molecular substructure of clinically-relevant diagnostic information.
© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.