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Anal Chem. 2008 Nov 15;80(22):8662-7. doi: 10.1021/ac801591r. Epub 2008 Oct 17.

MS/MS methodology to improve subcellular mapping of cholesterol using TOF-SIMS.

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Department of Chemistry, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.


Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS) can be utilized to map the distribution of various molecules on a surface with submicrometer resolution. Much of its biological application has been in the study of membrane lipids, such as phospholipids and cholesterol. Cholesterol is a particularly interesting molecule due to its involvement in numerous biological processes. For many studies, the effectiveness of chemical mapping is limited by low signal intensity from various biomolecules. Because of the high energy nature of the SIMS ionization process, many molecules are identified by detection of characteristic fragments. Commonly, fragments of a molecule are identified using standard samples, and those fragments are used to map the location of the molecule. In this work, MS/MS data obtained from a prototype C60(+)/quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer was used in conjunction with indium LMIG imaging to map previously unrecognized cholesterol fragments in single cells. A model system of J774 macrophages doped with cholesterol was used to show that these fragments are derived from cholesterol in cell imaging experiments. Examination of relative quantification experiments reveals that m/z 147 is the most specific diagnostic fragment and offers a 3-fold signal enhancement. These findings greatly increase the prospects for cholesterol mapping experiments in biological samples, particularly with single cell experiments. In addition, these findings demonstrate the wealth of information that is hidden in the traditional TOF-SIMS spectrum.

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