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J Bacteriol. 2012 Nov;194(22):6023-8. doi: 10.1128/JB.00823-12. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

Primer on agar-based microbial imaging mass spectrometry.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA.


Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight (MALDI-TOF) imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) applied directly to microbes on agar-based medium captures global information about microbial molecules, allowing for direct correlation of chemotypes to phenotypes. This tool was developed to investigate metabolic exchange factors of intraspecies, interspecies, and polymicrobial interactions. Based on our experience of the thousands of images we have generated in the laboratory, we present five steps of microbial IMS: culturing, matrix application, dehydration of the sample, data acquisition, and data analysis/interpretation. We also address the common challenges encountered during sample preparation, matrix selection and application, and sample adherence to the MALDI target plate. With the practical guidelines described herein, microbial IMS use can be extended to bio-based agricultural, biofuel, diagnostic, and therapeutic discovery applications.

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