Login processing...

Trial ends in Request Full Access Tell Your Colleague About Jove


Sample Preparation for Rapid Lipid Analysis in Drosophila Brain Using Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging

Published: July 14, 2022 doi: 10.3791/63930
* These authors contributed equally


The aim of this protocol is to provide detailed guidance on the proper sample preparation for lipid and metabolite analysis in small tissues, such as the Drosophila brain, using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) mass spectrometry imaging.


Lipid profiling, or lipidomics, is a well-established technique used to study the entire lipid content of a cell or tissue. Information acquired from lipidomics is valuable in studying the pathways involved in development, disease, and cellular metabolism. Many tools and instrumentations have aided lipidomics projects, most notably various combinations of mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography techniques. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI MSI) has recently emerged as a powerful imaging technique that complements conventional approaches. This novel technique provides unique information on the spatial distribution of lipids within tissue compartments, which was previously unattainable without the use of excessive modifications. The sample preparation of the MALDI MSI approach is critical and, therefore, is the focus of this paper. This paper presents a rapid lipid analysis of a large number of Drosophila brains embedded in optimal cutting temperature compound (OCT) to provide a detailed protocol for the preparation of small tissues for lipid analysis or metabolite and small molecule analysis through MALDI MSI.


Lipids are involved in a wide range of biological processes and can be broadly classified into five categories based on their structural diversity: fatty acids, triacylglycerols (TAGs), phospholipids, sterol lipids, and sphingolipids1. The fundamental functions of lipids are to provide energy sources for biological processes (i.e., TAGs) and form cellular membranes (i.e., phospholipids and cholesterol). However, additional roles of lipids have been noted in development and diseases, and have been extensively studied in the biomedical field. For instance, reports have shown that fatty acids of different lengths may have unique therapeutic roles. Short fatty acid chains can be involved in defense mechanisms against autoimmune diseases, medium-length fatty acid chains produce metabolites that can mitigate seizures, and long fatty acid chains generate metabolites that can be used to treat metabolic disorders2. In the nervous system, glia-derived cholesterol and phospholipids have been shown to be vital for synaptogenesis3,4. Other types of lipids have shown promise in medical applications, including sphingolipids utilized in drug delivery systems and saccharolipids used to support the immune system5,6. The numerous roles and potential therapeutic applications of lipids in the biomedical field have made lipidomics—the study of the pathways and interactions of cellular lipids—a critical and increasingly important field.

Lipidomics makes use of analytical chemistry to study the lipidome on a large scale. The main experimental methods utilized in lipidomics are based on mass spectrometry (MS) coupled with various chromatography and ion-mobility techniques7,8. The use of MS in the area is advantageous due to its high specificity and sensitivity, speed of acquisition, and unique capabilities to (1) detect lipids and lipid metabolites occurring even at low and transient levels, (2) detect hundreds of different lipid compounds in a single experiment, (3) identify previously unknown lipids, and (4) distinguish between lipid isomers. Among the developments in MS, including desorption electrospray ionization (DESI), MALDI, and secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), MALDI MSI has emerged as a powerful imaging technique that complements conventional MS-based approaches by providing unique information on the spatial distribution of lipids within tissue compartments9,10.

The typical workflow of lipidomics consists of sample preparation, data acquisition using mass-spectrometry technology, and data analysis11. The study of lipids and metabolites in samples has led to the emergence of techniques to understand the physiological and pathological conditions of metabolic processes in organisms. While understanding biological interactions is important, the sensitivity of lipids and metabolites makes them difficult to image and identify without dyes or other modification. Changes in metabolite levels or distribution may lead to phenotypic changes. One tool used for metabolomic profiling is MALDI MSI, a label-free, in situ imaging technique capable of detecting hundreds of molecules simultaneously. MALDI imaging allows for the visualization of metabolites and lipids in samples while preserving their integrity and spatial distribution. Previous technology for lipid profiling involved the use of radioactive chemicals to individually map lipids, while MALDI imaging forgoes this and allows for the detection of a range of lipids simultaneously.

Lipid metabolism and homeostasis play important functions in cell physiology, such as the maintenance and development of the nervous system. One essential aspect of nervous system lipid metabolism is the lipid shuttling between neurons and glial cells, which is mediated by molecular carrier lipoproteins, including very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and high-density lipoproteins (HDL)12. Lipoproteins contain apolipoproteins (Apo), such as ApoB and ApoD, which function as structural blocks of lipid cargo and as ligands for lipoprotein receptors. The neuron-glia crosstalk of lipids involves multiple players such as glia-derived ApoD, ApoE, and ApoJ, and their neuronal LDL receptors (LDLRs)13,14. In Drosophila, apolipophorin, a member of the ApoB family, is a major hemolymph lipid carrier15. Apolipophorin has two closely related lipophorin receptors (LpRs), LpR1 and LpR2, which are homologs of mammalian LDLR15,16. In previous studies, the astrocyte-secreted lipocalin Glial Lazarillo (GLaz), a Drosophila homolog of human ApoD, and its neuronal receptor LpR1 were discovered to cooperatively mediate neuron-glia lipid shuttling, thus regulating dendrite morphogenesis17. Therefore, it was speculated that the loss of LpR1 would cause a decrease in overall lipid content in the Drosophila brain. MALDI MSI would be a suitable tool for profiling the lipid contents in small tissues of LpR1−/− mutant and wild-type Drosophila brains, as demonstrated in this study.

Despite the growing popularity of MALDI MSI, the instrument's high cost and experimental complexity often impede its implementation in individual laboratories. Thus, most MALDI MSI studies are conducted using shared core facilities. As with other applications of MALDI MSI, a careful sample preparation process for lipidomics is critical to achieve reliable results. However, because sample slide preparation is typically performed in individual research laboratories, there is a possibility of variation in MALDI MSI acquisition. To combat this, this paper aims to provide a detailed protocol for the sample preparation of small biological samples prior to MALDI MSI measurement using lipid analysis of a large group of adult Drosophila brains in positive ion mode as an example11,17. However, some phospholipid classes and the majority of small metabolites are favorably detected by MALDI imaging in negative ion mode, which was described previously11. Therefore, with these two example studies, we hope to provide detailed sample preparation protocols of various combinations: free-standing large tissue versus embedded small tissue, thaw-mounting versus warm-slide mounting, and positive ion mode versus negative ion mode.

Subscription Required. Please recommend JoVE to your librarian.


1. Fly head embedding

NOTE: The whole procedure takes ~45-60 min.

  1. Prepare the optimal cutting temperature compound (OCT compound) stage with a flat surface.
    1. Add OCT into a plastic cryomold (15 mm x 15 mm x 5 mm) to half of the depth of the cryomold and avoid bubble formation. Leave the mold on a flat surface for several minutes, and then transfer it onto dry ice.
    2. Keep the cryomold flat on the dry ice and allow the OCT to form a flat and even surface. Wait until the OCT is fully solidified in the mold. Use the frozen OCT stages immediately or store them at −80 °C.
  2. Anesthetize adult flies using CO2 (i.e., a CO2 pad).
    1. Prepare a Petri dish containing a piece of laboratory wipe. Use water to moisten part of the wipe to reduce the static electricity. Keep the wipe half wet and half dry.
    2. Under dissecting scope 1, use forceps to cut the fly head. Collect 4-5 heads each time and put them onto the dry area of the laboratory wipe.
      NOTE: The collection of 4-5 heads takes ~ 2 mins.
  3. Transfer the OCT stage from dry ice to the dissection scope.
    1. Take the OCT stage from dry ice to microscope 2, immediately transfer the heads to the OCT stage, and arrange them quickly, which takes ~30 s to avoid OCT melting. Leave ~1 mm of blank space around each fly brain to ensure adequate support from the OCT and 4-5 mm of blank space from the edge of the block to provide adequate room to handle the section. If the proboscis is too long, remove the tip; if it is not too long, keep it intact. Put the OCT stage back onto the dry ice and let it stay on for ~3 min to make sure the OCT stage remains frozen and solid.
    2. When the OCT stage is back on the dry ice and waiting for solidification, collect another round of heads. Repeat steps 1.2 and 1.3 to transfer additional samples onto the remaining space on the stage.
      NOTE: Eight heads are usually prepared for each genotype, and four genotypes are used in one OCT stage in this laboratory.
    3. Use two dissection microscopes, side by side, to avoid changing focus and increasing the time taken to transfer and arrange the heads on the OCT stage and to lower the risk of the OCT stage melting.
  4. After all the fly heads are aligned, let the OCT stage sit on the dry ice for another 5-10 min.
  5. Take the OCT stage away from the dry ice, put it on a flat surface (bench), and then, quickly, add a large amount of OCT compound to cover all the samples and fill the whole cryomold, which takes ~3 s.
  6. Immediately transfer the cryomold back to dry ice and freeze the whole OCT block containing the embedded tissues. Let the OCT stage sit on the dry ice for another 5-10 min. Label the samples on the margin of the cryomold.
  7. Store the frozen samples at −80 °C until ready for sectioning.

2. Cryosectioning the tissue

NOTE: When handling the indium tin oxide (ITO) slides, wear gloves at all times to avoid tissue contamination. Wearing a mask is also recommended to avoid breathing directly onto the slide.

  1. Confirm the ITO-coated side by testing the conductivity of the ITO slides using a voltmeter set to resistance. Mark the side with a resistance measurement as the side to adhere the tissue to. Label it and always set a laboratory wipe on the bottom of the slide to avoid slide contamination.
  2. Allow the tissues to equilibrate in the cryostat chamber for 30-45 min.
    1. To avoid the melting of the OCT, place all the necessary tools such as forceps and a thin-tipped artist brush in the cryostat chamber ahead of time to precool them.
  3. Clean the cryostat, preferably with 70% ethanol. Wipe the roll plate and stage and remove used blades. Use additional clean wipes to ensure that the ethanol has evaporated and that all the surfaces are dry before sectioning begins.
  4. Adjust the temperature of the cryostat chamber and specimen head according to the type of the tissue (e.g., −14 °C for liver, −20 °C for muscle, and −25 °C for skin10; −18 °C for fly heads in this protocol).
  5. Mount the tissue onto the specimen holder using OCT. Be careful to use enough OCT to cover the base of the OCT block and mount the block as flat as possible.
  6. Place a clean blade in the stage and lock it. Position the head of the specimen toward the stage as needed to achieve the desired cutting angle.
    1. Place the specimen block in an orientation where all genotypes/treatment groups are positioned vertically to the blade.
      NOTE: This ensures a consistent cutting plane and avoids cross-contamination from different groups. If cutting a different block of tissue, switch to a new blade between samples to prevent cross-contamination.
  7. Begin cutting in thick sections (50-100 µm) until the region of interest (e.g., the desired region of the brain) is found.
    1. Constantly brush off extra pieces with a precooled artist brush to keep the stage clean.
  8. Change the thickness of the sections to 10-12 µm once the desired region is reached.
    1. Adjust the chamber temperature slightly as necessary. For example, set a higher temperature if the section tends to flake or fall apart easily.
      NOTE: The recommended temperature for OCT blocks is −18 °C.
  9. Carefully collect the desired section and adhere it to the ITO slide. Perform this operation in the cryostat chamber.
    1. Take a room-temperature ITO slide and position it over the section, approach the section gently and quickly for the section to adhere to the slide without leaving traces on the cryostat stage.
      NOTE: The OCT will melt and cling to the slide.
  10. Place the slide aside in a rack or laboratory wipe outside the cryostat between the collections of multiple sections.
  11. If comparison across different samples of the same cohort is desired, place the sections from multiple samples onto a single slide for simultaneous analysis and minimal variation. If necessary, separate to two slides, as the MALDI target holder can accommodate two slides in a single run.
  12. Transport the slides in a vacuum box to a desiccator with desiccant as the bottom layer. Dry the slides under a vacuum for 30-60 min.
    NOTE: Alternatively, if the lab is not equipped with a vacuum desiccator, the slides should be kept at −20 °C throughout the process until storage at −80 °C within 24 h or shipping on dry ice to avoid the deterioration of lipids or metabolites.
  13. Proceed to matrix deposition. Use 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHB) in methanol/water (70/30, v/v) as the matrix.
  14. If slides are not run immediately, either store the slides at −80 °C (up to 1 month for fly brain sections and 6 months for rodent brain sections), or immediately ship the sample to MALDI core facilities with adequate dry ice. For optimal storage and shipping, place the slides into a slide transporter and securely seal the opening with wax film. Seal with a zip bag, place it into another zip bag containing desiccant, and label the outside.
    NOTE: Refer to previous work for the followed steps of slide scanning, matrix deposition, and MALDI imaging procedures11.
  15. Perform matrix deposition using the automatic HTX M5 matrix sprayer and a 40 mg/mL solution of DHB in methanol/water (70/30, v/v). Spray the matrix at a customized flow rate of 0.12 mL/min and a nozzle temperature of 85 °C for 10 passes. Use an N2 gas pressure of 10 psi.
    NOTE: If the N2 gas pressure in the sprayer is lowered below 5 psi, a safety mechanism in the sprayer will shut the heater off at once to avoid any damage to the sprayer with a 1,300 mm/min spray velocity, 2 mm track spacing, 3 L/min flow rate, and 40 mm nozzle height.
  16. Use a MALDI time of flight (TOF) MS instrument (see the Table of Materials) in positive ion mode to acquire a mass spectrum within the mass ranges from m/z 50-1,000.
    1. To calibrate the instrument, spot 0.5 µL of red phosphorus emulsion in acetonitrile onto the ITO slides and use its spectra to calibrate the instrument in the 50-1,000 m/z mass range by applying a quadratic calibration curve2.
    2. Set the laser spot diameters to Medium, as it is the modulated beam profile for 40 µm raster width, and gather imaging data by summing 500 shots at a laser repetition rate of 1,000 Hz per array position.
    3. Use software (see the Table of Materials) to record and process the spectral data. Perform imaging data analysis using root mean square (RMS) normalization to generate ion images at a bin width of ±0.10 Da. Align the spectra of both the OCT and brain tissue from the same experiment using the software to evaluate the overlapping peaks and the ion suppression interference of the OCT (Supplemental Figure S1). After the experiment, process the MALDI slides containing the tissue samples by hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining, as previously described11.

Subscription Required. Please recommend JoVE to your librarian.

Representative Results

The loss of the neuronal receptor LpR1 of the astrocyte-secreted lipocalin Glial Lazarillo (GLaz), a Drosophila homolog of human ApoD, was hypothesized to be able to cause a decrease in overall lipid content in the Drosophila brain. To test this, MALDI MSI was used to profile the lipids in LpR1−/− mutant and wild-type Drosophila brains, which is elaborated on below.

The experiment was performed according to the workflow shown in Figure 1. Adult fly brains were harvested as described above. They were embedded in OCT, and dry ice was used to freeze the OCT block. The OCT tissue block was cryosectioned at 12 µm thickness and at −18 °C for both the specimen head and the chamber. ITO slides with cryosections mounted on them were desiccated in a vacuum for 30 min at room temperature. Next, matrix deposition was carried out using the automatic HTX M5 matrix sprayer and a 40 mg/mL solution of DHB in methanol/water (70/30, v/v).

The MALDI time of flight (TOF) MS Autoflex instrument in positive ion mode acquired a mass spectrum within the mass ranges from 50-1,000 m/z. The spectrum of both the OCT and brain tissue from the same experiment were aligned in SCiLS to evaluate the overlapping peaks and the ion suppression interference of the OCT (Supplemental Figure S1).

The results in Figure 2 show output images from MALDI MSI data analysis software of selected m/z spectra where the selected values showed a significant difference in lipid distribution between LpR1 knockout and wild-type Drosophila. The scans revealed a general reduction in lipid contents in the LpR1−/− mutant. Each spectrum was analyzed manually, and analyte identification was achieved by cross-referencing METLIN databases and previously published studies3,4. Triacylglycerol (TAG) and phosphatidylglycerol (PG) were highly expressed in control brains compared to the LpR1−/− mutant (showing up to a 10-fold change in TAG). Additionally, diglycerol (DAG), phosphatidylcholine (PC), and phosphatidyl-ethanolamine (PE) were also minimally expressed in the LpR1−/− mutant genotype.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Workflow of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry imaging. (A) Drosophila brains are aligned in OCT placed on top of dry ice. (B-D) The tissue block is cryosectioned into 12 µm thick sections at −15 °C. The section is flattened using a precooled brush and thaw-melted onto the ITO-coated side of a glass slide kept at room temperature. (E) The slide is marked with fiducial markers, coated with matrix, and placed into the MALDI instrument. (F) The MALDI image of a Drosophila brain is obtained at 40 µm resolution using DHB as matrix. The regions of eyes (red, m/z 370.2), head tissue (green, m/z 184.1), and brain (blue, m/z 788.6) are shown in the overlayed multi-channel image. (G) H&E staining is performed on the same tissue section after MALDI MSI. (H) The workflow of sample preparation, storage, and transportation. Scale bars = 500 µm (F,G). Abbreviations: MALDI-TOF = matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight; OCT = optimal cutting temperature compound; ITO = indium tin oxide; DHB = 2,5,-dihydroxybenzoic acid; H&E = hematoxylin and eosin; MSI = mass spectrometry imaging. Please click here to view a larger version of this figure.

Figure 2
Figure 2: Representative images from MALDI MS analysis revealing a general decrease in lipid contents in the LpR1−/− mutant brain. Representative H&E-stained adult fly brain sections are shown (left). The lipid species, their respective m/z values, and the scales of the heatmap are as indicated. At the bottom, the average fold of reduction in the LpR1−/− mutant as compared to the controls from at least four biological replicates are shown as numbers next to the arrows. Scale bar = 1 mm. This figure has been modified from Yin et al.17. Please click here to view a larger version of this figure.

Supplemental Figure S1: Mass spectra of OCT and Drosophila brain tissue. The cryosections of Drosophila brain OCT block from Figure 1 were covered evenly with DHB matrix before MALDI imaging. The mass spectrum of the selected blank OCT region and brain tissue region from both control and mutant flies were shown in the range of m/z 1-1,000 and m/z 520-900 (lipid-enriched), respectively. The interference of OCT is associated with both ion suppression phenomena and overlapping signal issues. Abbreviations: OCT = optimal cutting temperature compound; DHB = 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid; MALDI = matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization. Please click here to download this File.

Subscription Required. Please recommend JoVE to your librarian.


As demonstrated in the study on the variations in lipid composition in mutant and wild-type Drosophila brains, MALDI MSI can be a valuable label-free imaging technique for in situ analysis of molecular distribution patterns within organs of small insects. Indeed, because lipids are distributed in both the brain tissue and fat bodies of Drosophila heads, conventional lipidomics approaches based on liquid-chromatography and mass-spectrometry (LC-MS) can detect only combined signals from both regions when whole-head extraction is used. Broadly, differential lipidomics analysis of subregions within organs of such a small insect like Drosophila is a very laborious and challenging task for LC-MS approaches18. It would require dissection of those regions, which imposes great challenges. In contrast, MALDI MSI provides adequate resolution to distinguish different anatomic structures, even within the small Drosophila brain. The benefit of a minimum amount of tissue requirement compared to conventional LC-MS could also be applied to precious samples such as clinical biopsies. Furthermore, the sample slides prepared for MALDI MSI could also be examined by complementary techniques such as TOF-SIMS and immunohistochemistry, which would enable the integration of the data obtained from cross-disciplinary approaches19,20.

One of the most important steps in MALDI MSI is the sample preparation—the part of the experiment that accounts for most of the differences in the results from metabolomics studies carried out in different labs21. The main goal here is to provide a comprehensive yet practical sample preparation protocol for MALDI MSI analysis of lipids and metabolites in organisms as small as Drosophila insects in the hope of aiding researchers with the implementation of MALDI MSI in their studies from basic biology to translational science.

In addition to the precautions to minimize changes in the molecular profiles (both abundance and spatial distribution) as previously discussed11, several other practices need to be adapted when handling small tissues. First, the time between biological tissue harvesting and freezing in OCT should be minimized to reduce the likelihood of postmortem ischemia21. Second, one should ensure that a flat stage of OCT is prepared before placing the tissue into the block, which is crucial for having sections from comparable planes across different tissues during sectioning. Third, the cutting of small-scale biological tissue or precious samples needs adequate practice before the experiment. While the OCT aids in cutting even sections, complications may arise in terms of tissue curling or flaking. To combat curling, one should allow the section to rest on the stage for a few seconds before removing the roll plate. With two brushes, one can be used to hold the top of the section still, while the other can be used to unfurl the section. Care should be taken to minimize contact with the tissue by primarily working with the edges of the block sections. Fourth, although the thaw-mounting method could be used for fewer fly brains (<10 brains), it would be impossible to transfer a section containing a large number of fly brains (>30 brains) to a cold ITO slide without losing a remarkable number of brains, which would easily fall out of the block section once lifted. Therefore, for rapid analysis of a large number of fly brains, warm-slide mounting needs to be used. Notably, the temperature difference between the OCT section and the slide will cause the section to cling and adhere to the slide very quickly. Hence, one should not press the warm slide against the section and cryostat stage; instead, one must gently and quickly approach the sections to allow the section to attach to the ITO slide without touching the cryostat stage. We did not observe any noticeable trace of the sections left behind on the cryostat stage compared to the thaw-mounting method. Fifth, a uniform and fine deposition of MALDI matrix is crucial to achieve strong and accurate spatial information during acquisition. It is recommended to use a blank slide to test the matrix deposition for proper coverage before proceeding to the slide containing the sample.

With its growing popularity and advancements, MALDI MSI is expected to reach a broader base of users and become a standard tool for molecular mass measurements of analytes such as amino acids, metabolites, lipids, peptides and proteins, and other small molecules directly extracted from biological tissues10. However, it has its own limitations and challenges. When preparing fragile and small-scale samples for MALDI MSI, embedding agents such as OCT are necessary for sectioning. However, OCT contains a combination of polymers (poly(vinyl alcohol), polyethylene glycerol, and benzalkonium chloride), which creates a polymeric background signal that may interfere with the analyte signal22. Alternative embedding compounds such as gelatin and carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) have been reported to demonstrate less ion suppression effects. Gelatin shows less intense signals that are more scattered in the low-mass range of 100-600 m/z20,23,24. CMC has also been used in MALDI MSI of Drosophila to visualize metabolites such as GABA, though it requires immersing the heads in 70% ethanol prior to embedding for optimal adhesion25.

Despite OCT's tendency for signal suppression, this protocol proceeds with its use due to the superior ability of OCT to provide reliable sectioning of a large number of samples while preserving brain morphology. Researchers have found that, while gelatin and CMC section well at high thicknesses such as 20 µm, only OCT is able to produce consecutive 12 µm sections reliably26. CMC and gelatin lack the structural integrity and tight hold of tissue that OCT provides, which sets the limit of the number of small tissues such as fly brain to be accommodated in one block26. It has been reported that MS signals from OCT-embedded fly sections are comparable to those embedded in gelatin and CMC26. Our unpublished data also indicated that warm-mounted, OCT-embedded fly brain sections generated robust lipid signals comparable to thaw-mounted gelatin-embedded tissue. Overall, due the superior ability of OCT to preserve the integrity of tissue morphology and enable precise sample sectioning compared to other embedding compounds, its usage with samples of high fragility, such as arrays of Drosophila brains, remains an option. In that scenario, only the relative quantification of comparing samples from the same experiment, but not absolute quantification, should be made. With respect to our reported study of the Drosophila model in lipid analysis, it was concluded that the benefits of OCT outweigh its limitations. In addition, trial experiments must be performed to test whether the MS signals of the targeted analytes would be masked by the OCT signals.

Furthermore, several practices need to be adapted to minimize the effects of ion suppression. First, one should process the samples of different groups at the same time to ensure the same extent of ion suppression, if there is any. Second, in the selection of the region of interest for MALDI scanning, one should avoid the OCT region and outline only the tissue region. Lastly, a region of blank OCT should be selected to be scanned as the negative control to exclude the signals from OCT during data analysis.

The field of lipidomics emerged in the early 2000s and has rapidly advanced in recent years, largely due to developments in mass spectrometry, including MALDI MSI27. These advancing techniques have aided in driving the field toward biological and biomedical applications. For example, lipidomics can be employed in neurological studies as changes in levels of brain lipid trafficking and composition can be used as biomarkers of disease. Additionally, lipidomics has led to the identification of new signaling molecules, the development of drug efficacy tests, the discovery of mechanisms underlying pathophysiological conditions, and more28. Despite the remarkable achievements made by the field in the past few years, there are still areas that demand growth. For instance, the ability for a lipid to be accurately quantified using current technology remains under debate29. In addition, the complete mapping of the cellular lipidome has much progress to make. It is expected that these areas, among others in the field, will experience significant growth in the coming years.

Subscription Required. Please recommend JoVE to your librarian.


The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


Yuki X. Chen, Kelly Veerasammy, and Mayan Hein are supported by the Sloan Foundation CUNY Summer Research Program (CSURP). Jun Yin is supported by the intramural research program of the National Institutes of Health Project Number 1ZIANS003137. Support for this project was provided by a PSC-CUNY Award to Ye He and Rinat Abzalimov, jointly funded by The Professional Staff Congress and The City University of New York.


Name Company Catalog Number Comments
2,5-Dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHB) Millipore Sigma Aldrich 85707-1G-F
Andwin Scientific CRYOMOLD 15X15X5 Fisher Scientific NC9464347
Andwin Scientific Tissue-Tek CRYO-OCT Compound Fisher Scientific 14-373-65
Artist brush MSC #5 1/8 X 9/16 TRIM RED SABLE Fisher Scientific 50-111-2302
autoflex speed MALDI-TOF MS system Bruker Daltonics Inc MALDI-TOF MS instrument
BD Syringe with Luer-Lok Tips Fisher Scientific 14-823-16E
BD Vacutainer General Use Syringe Needles Fisher Scientific 23-021-020
Bruker Daltonics GLASS SLIDES MALDI IMAGNG Fisher Scientific NC0380464
Drierite, with indicator, 8 mesh, ACROS Organics AC219095000
Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner Amazon Perfection V600
Fisherbrand 5-Place Slide Mailer Fisher Scientific HS15986
Fisherbrand Digital Auto-Range Multimeter Fisher Scientific 01-241-1
FlexImaging v3.0 Bruker Daltonics Inc Bruker MS imaging analysis software
HPLC Grade Methanol Fisher Scientific MMX04751
HPLC Grade Water Fisher Scientific W5-1
HTX M5 Sprayer HTX Technologies, LLC Automatic heated matrix sprayer
Kimberly-Clark Professional Kimtech Science Kimwipes Delicate Task Wipers Fisher Scientific 06-666A
MSC Ziploc Freezer Bag Fisher Scientific 50-111-3769
SCiLS Lab (2015b) SCiLS Lab Advanced MALDI MSI data analysis software
Thermo Scientific CryoStar NX50 Cryostat Fisher Thermo Scientific 95-713-0
Thermo Scientific Nalgene Transparent Polycarbonate Classic Design Desiccator Fisher Scientific 08-642-7



  1. Park, J., et al. Bioactive lipids and their derivatives in biomedical applications. Biomolecules & Therapeutics. 29 (5), 465-482 (2021).
  2. Augustin, K., et al. Mechanisms of action for the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet in neurological and metabolic disorders. Lancet Neurology. 17 (1), 84-93 (2018).
  3. Baldwin, K. T., Eroglu, C. Molecular mechanisms of astrocyte-induced synaptogenesis. Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 45, 113-120 (2017).
  4. Mauch, D. H., et al. Cns synaptogenesis promoted by glia-derived cholesterol. Science. 294 (5545), 1354-1357 (2001).
  5. Hannun, Y. A., Obeid, L. M. Sphingolipids and their metabolism in physiology and disease. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology. 19 (3), 175-191 (2018).
  6. Zhou, F., Ciric, B., Zhang, G. X., Rostami, A. Immunotherapy using lipopolysaccharide-stimulated bone marrow-derived dendritic cells to treat experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 178 (3), 447-458 (2014).
  7. Carrasco-Pancorbo, A., Navas-Iglesias, N., Cuadros-Rodriguez, L. From lipid analysis towards lipidomics, a new challenge for the analytical chemistry of the 21st century. Part I: Modern lipid analysis. TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry. 28 (3), 263-278 (2009).
  8. Navas-Iglesias, N., Carrasco-Pancorbo, A., Cuadros-Rodriguez, L. From lipids analysis towards lipidomics, a new challenge for the analytical chemistry of the 21st century. Part II: Analytical lipidomics. TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry. 28 (4), 393-403 (2009).
  9. Yang, K., Han, X. Lipidomics: Techniques, applications, and outcomes related to biomedical sciences. Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 41 (11), 954-969 (2016).
  10. Norris, J. L., Caprioli, R. M. Analysis of tissue specimens by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization imaging mass spectrometry in biological and clinical research. Chemical Reviews. 113 (4), 2309-2342 (2013).
  11. Veerasammy, K., et al. Sample preparation for metabolic profiling using MALDI mass spectrometry imaging. Journal of Visualized Experiments. (166), e62008 (2020).
  12. Tracey, T. J., Steyn, F. J., Wolvetang, E. J., Ngo, S. T. Neuronal lipid metabolism: Multiple pathways driving functional outcomes in health and disease. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience. 11, 10 (2018).
  13. Jackson, C. L., Walch, L., Verbavatz, J. M. Lipids and their trafficking: An integral part of cellular organization. Developmental Cell. 39 (2), 139-153 (2016).
  14. Wang, H., Eckel, R. H. What are lipoproteins doing in the brain. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism. 25 (1), 8-14 (2014).
  15. Palm, W., et al. Lipoproteins in Drosophila melanogaster-Assembly, function, and influence on tissue lipid composition. PLoS Genetics. 8 (7), 1002828 (2012).
  16. Parra-Peralbo, E., Culi, J. Drosophila lipophorin receptors mediate the uptake of neutral lipids in oocytes and imaginal disc cells by an endocytosis-independent mechanism. PLoS Genetics. 7 (2), 1001297 (2011).
  17. Yin, J., et al. Brain-specific lipoprotein receptors interact with astrocyte derived apolipoprotein and mediate neuron-glia lipid shuttling. Nature Communications. 12 (1), 2408 (2021).
  18. Tuthill, B. F., Searcy, L. A., Yost, R. A., Musselman, L. P. Tissue-specific analysis of lipid species in Drosophila during overnutrition by UHPLC-MS/MS and MALDI-MSI. Journal of Lipid Research. 61 (3), 275-290 (2020).
  19. Kaya, I., Jennische, E., Lange, S., Malmberg, P. Multimodal chemical imaging of a single brain tissue section using ToF-SIMS, MALDI-ToF and immuno/histochemical staining. Analyst. 146 (4), 1169-1177 (2021).
  20. Phan, N. T., Fletcher, J. S., Ewing, A. G. Lipid structural effects of oral administration of methylphenidate in Drosophila brain by secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging. Analytical Chemistry. 87 (8), 4063-4071 (2015).
  21. Dienel, G. A. Metabolomic and imaging mass spectrometric assays of labile brain metabolites: Critical importance of brain harvest procedures. Neurochemical Research. 45 (11), 2586-2606 (2020).
  22. Schwartz, S. A., Reyzer, M. L., Caprioli, R. M. Direct tissue analysis using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry: Practical aspects of sample preparation. Journal of Mass Spectrometry. 38 (7), 699-708 (2003).
  23. Phan, N. T., Mohammadi, A. S., Dowlatshahi Pour, M., Ewing, A. G. Laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry imaging of Drosophila brain using matrix sublimation versus modification with nanoparticles. Analytical Chemistry. 88 (3), 1734-1741 (2016).
  24. Niehoff, A. C., et al. Analysis of Drosophila lipids by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometric imaging. Analytical Chemistry. 86 (22), 11086-11092 (2014).
  25. Enomoto, Y., Nt An, P., Yamaguchi, M., Fukusaki, E., Shimma, S. Mass spectrometric imaging of GABA in the Drosophila melanogaster adult head. Analytical Sciences. 34 (9), 1055-1059 (2018).
  26. Yang, E., Gamberi, C., Chaurand, P. Mapping the fly malpighian tubule lipidome by imaging mass spectrometry. Journal of Mass Spectrometry. 54 (6), 557-566 (2019).
  27. Blanksby, S. J., Mitchell, T. W. Advances in mass spectrometry for lipidomics. Annual Review of Analytical Chemistry. 3, 433-465 (2010).
  28. Han, X. Lipidomics for studying metabolism. Nature Reviews Endocrinology. 12 (11), 668-679 (2016).
  29. Wang, M., Wang, C., Han, X. Selection of internal standards for accurate quantification of complex lipid species in biological extracts by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry-What, how and why. Mass Spectrometry Reviews. 36 (6), 693-714 (2017).


Lipid Analysis Drosophila Brain Matrix-assisted Laser Desorption/ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging MALDI-MS Imaging Sample Preparation Lipid Abundance Lipid Distribution In Situ Detection Large Population Analysis Practice Sample Modification Cutting Temperature Cryomold Bubble Formation Dry Ice OCT Solidification Frozen OCT Stages Anesthetizing Flies Carbon Dioxide Petri Dish Laboratory Wipe Static Electricity
Sample Preparation for Rapid Lipid Analysis in <em>Drosophila</em> Brain Using Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging
Play Video

Cite this Article

Chen, Y. X., Veerasammy, K., Yin,More

Chen, Y. X., Veerasammy, K., Yin, J., Choetso, T., Zhong, T., Choudhury, M. A., Weng, C., Xu, E., Hein, M. A., Abzalimov, R., He, Y. Sample Preparation for Rapid Lipid Analysis in Drosophila Brain Using Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging. J. Vis. Exp. (185), e63930, doi:10.3791/63930 (2022).

Copy Citation Download Citation Reprints and Permissions
View Video

Get cutting-edge science videos from JoVE sent straight to your inbox every month.

Waiting X
Simple Hit Counter