Mass spectrometry imaging

Mass spectrometry imaging

Mass spectrometry imaging (also known as imaging mass spectrometry) is a technique used in mass spectrometry to visualize the spatial distribution of e.g. compounds, biomarker, metabolites, peptides or proteins by their molecular masses. Emerging technologies in the field of MSI are MALDI imaging and secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging (SIMS imaging) [1][2].


SIMS Imaging

Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) is used to analyze solid surfaces and thin films by sputtering the surface with a focused primary ion beam and collecting and analyzing ejected secondary ions. SIMS imaging is performed in a manner similar to electron microscopy; the primary ion beam is rastered across the sample while secondary mass spectra are recorded.

MALDI imaging

Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization can be used as a mass spectrometry imaging technique for relatively large molecules.[2] In this version of the technique the sample, typically a thin tissue section, is moved in two dimensions while the mass spectrum is recorded.[3]

DESI imaging

Other mass spectrometry ionization methods can also be used for MS imaging: for example desorption electrospray ionization[4].

Standard format for mass spectrometry images

As an extension of the mzML standard format developed by HUPO for mass spectrometry datasets, the Computis project developed the imzML standard format for mass spectrometry images. [5]


Converters from Thermo Fisher format, Analyze format, GRD format and Bruker format to imzML format were developed by the Computis project. Some software modules are also available for viewing mass spectrometry images in imzML format: Biomap (free), DataCubeExplorer (free), EasyMSI (CEA), Mirion (JLU). Converters and modules are described or downloadable on


  1. ^ Rohner T, Staab D, Stoeckli M (2005). "MALDI mass spectrometric imaging of biological tissue sections". Mechanisms of Ageing and Development 126 (1): 177–185. doi:10.1016/j.mad.2004.09.032. PMID 15610777. 
  2. ^ a b McDonnell LA, Heeren RM (2007). "Imaging mass spectrometry". Mass spectrometry reviews 26 (4): 606–43. doi:10.1002/mas.20124. PMID 17471576. 
  3. ^ Chaurand P, Norris JL, Cornett DS, Mobley JA, Caprioli RM (2006). "New developments in profiling and imaging of proteins from tissue sections by MALDI mass spectrometry". J. Proteome Res. 5 (11): 2889–900. doi:10.1021/pr060346u. PMID 17081040. 
  4. ^ Ifa DR, Wiseman JM, Song Q, Cooks RG (2007). "Development of capabilities for imaging mass spectrometry under ambient conditions with desorption electrospray ionization (DESI)". International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 259 (1-3): 8–15. doi:10.1016/j.ijms.2006.08.003. 
  5. ^ A. Römpp, T. Schramm, A. Hester, I. Klinkert, J.P. Both, R.M.A. Heeren, M. Stoeckli, B. Spengler (2011). Chapter imzML: Imaging Mass Spectrometry Markup Language: A Common Data Format for Mass Spectrometry Imaging in Data Mining in Proteomics: From Standards to Applications. 696. pp. 205–224. 

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