Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI IMS) is a powerful molecular mapping technology that offers unbiased visualization of the spatial arrangement of biomolecules in tissue. Although there has been a significant increase in the number of applications employing this technology, the extracellular matrix (ECM) has received little attention, likely because ECM proteins are mostly large, insoluble and heavily cross-linked. We have developed a new sample preparation approach to enable MALDI IMS analysis of ECM proteins in tissue. Prior to freezing and sectioning, intact tissues are decellularized by incubation in sodium dodecyl sulfate. Decellularization removes the highly abundant, soluble species that dominate a MALDI IMS spectrum while preserving the structural integrity of the ECM. In situ tryptic hydrolysis and imaging of tryptic peptides are then carried out to accommodate the large sizes of ECM proteins. This new approach allows the use of MALDI IMS for identification of spatially specific changes in ECM protein expression and modification in tissue.
Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.