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First mass spectrometry images recorded using the matrix-assisted ionisation in vacuum technique

The MAIV (matrix-assisted ionisation in vacuum) mass spectrometry technique was developed by Professor Sarah Trimpin and her group in 2012. They observed that as 3-nitrobenzonitrile (3-NBN), a solid-state crystal matrix, sublimed under an intermediate vacuum and at ambient temperature, gas-phase analyte ions were observed. Mass spectra recorded under these conditions contained multiply charged ions and were very similar to those produced by electrospray ionisation (ESI). One significant advantage of the MAIV technique is that it generates multiply charged ions from peptides and proteins. This is of interest in tissue imaging and profiling experiments as it facilitates their identification by tandem mass spectrometry.

Professor Malcolm Clench and his group at Sheffield Hallam University have recorded the first mass spectrometry images using MAIV mass spectrometry, and the results are published in JSI—Journal of Spectral Imaging (doi:, an Open Access, peer-reviewed journal published by IM Publications Open. They modified the mass spectrometer’s sampling cone and optimised instrumental parameters to enable an area of ~5.3 mm diameter to be sampled. Imaging of a horizontal section of a rat brain recorded lipids’ signals at good sensitivity and selected ion signals could be overlaid to produce spatial information.

Further work is under way to investigate improvements to the sampling area that can be obtained. It remains to be seen whether the selectivity in sampling area obtainable in MAIV mass spectrometry experiments will make it a viable technique for imaging. However, the data acquired so far suggest that there may be a role for MAIV in mass spectrometry imaging.

Details of the paper

Alex James Harding, James Hough, Charlotte Curtis, Daniel Kinsman and Malcolm R. Clench, “Matrix-assisted ionisation in vacuum mass spectrometry and imaging on a modified quadrupole-quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometer”, J. Spectral Imaging 8, a12 (2019).

All papers in JSI—Journal of Spectral Imaging are Open Access and, so, free to read.

About the Journal of Spectral Imaging

JSI—Journal of Spectral Imaging is an, open access, peer review journal published by IM Publications Open ( JSI publishes high-quality papers in the rapidly growing fields of spectral, hyperspectral and chemical imaging.

Information for Editors (not for publication)

For more information about the research reported in this paper, please contact:

Professor Malcolm Clench ([email protected])

Mass spectra of lipids and image of rat brain using MAIV mass spectrometry imaging.

MAIV-MS lipid profiles (a and b) from a rat brain section. (c) Initial images of a horizontal section of rat brain as a bi-colour overlay of m/z 611 and m/z 798.4.