This article reports on the development of a laser ablation-direct analysis in real time imaging mass spectrometry approach that couples a 213 nm Nd:YAG solid state UV laser to a direct analysis in a real time ion source and high-resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometer.
Methods for the accomplishment of small-molecule imaging by mass spectrometry are challenged by the need for sample pretreatment steps, such as cryo-sectioning, dehydration, chemical fixation, or application of a matrix or solvent, that must be performed to obtain interpretable spatial distribution data. Furthermore, these steps along with requirements of the mass analyzer such as high vacuum, can severely limit the range of sample types that can be analyzed by this powerful method. The current project developed a platform that enables facile determination of the spatial distribution of small-molecules spanning a range of polarities in a diversity of sample types and requires no matrix, vacuum, solvent, or complicated sample pretreatment steps. It furnishes high-resolution data, can be performed under ambient conditions on samples in their native form, and results in little to no fragmentation of analytes. Its application involved the determination of the spatial distribution of molecules involved in the biosynthetic cascade leading to formation of the clinically relevant alkaloids atropine and scopolamine in Datura leichhardtii seed tissue. (Publisher abstract modified)