Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
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Inorganic nanostructured materials such as silicon, carbon, metals, and metal oxides have been explored as matrices of low-background signals to assist the laser desorption/ionization (LDI) mass spectrometric (MS) analysis of small molecules, but their applications for imaging of small molecules in biological tissues remain limited in the literature. Titanium dioxide is one of the known nanoparticles (NP) that can effectively assist LDI MS imaging of low molecular weight molecules (LMWM). TiO2 NP is commercially available as dispersions, which can be applied using a chemical solution sprayer. However, aggregation of NP can occur in the dispersions and the aggregated NP can slowly clog the sprayer nozzle. In this work, the use of zinc oxide (ZnO) NP for LDI MS imaging is investigated as a superior alternative due to its dissolution in acidic pH. ZnO NP was found to deliver similar or better results in the imaging of LMWM in comparison to TiO2 NP. The regular acid washes were effective in minimizing clogging and maintaining high reproducibility. High-quality images of mouse sagittal and rat coronal tissue sections were obtained. Ions were detected predominately as Na+ or K+ adducts in the positive ion mode. The number of LMWM detected with ZnO NP was similar to that obtained with TiO2 NP, and only a small degree of specificity was observed.