Spatially Resolved Plant Metabolomics: Some Potentials and Limitations of Laser-Ablation Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry Metabolite Imaging

D.W. Etalo, Ric C.H De Vos, Matthieu H.A.J. Joosten, Robert D. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Laser-ablation electrospray ionization (LAESI)-mass spectrometry imaging has been applied to contrasting plant organs to assess its potential as a procedure for performing in vivo metabolomics in plants. In a proof-of-concept experiment, purple/white segmented Phalaenopsis spp. petals were first analyzed using standard liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analyses of separate extracts made specifically from the purple and white regions. Discriminatory compounds were defined and putatively annotated. LAESI analyses were then performed on living tissues, and these metabolites were then relocalized within the LAESI-generated data sets of similar tissues. Maps were made to illustrate their locations across the petals. Results revealed that, as expected, anthocyanins always mapped to the purple regions. Certain other (nonvisible) polyphenols were observed to colocalize with the anthocyanins, whereas others were found specifically within the white tissues. In a contrasting example, control and Cladosporium fulvum-infected tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) leaves were subjected to the same procedures, and it could be observed that the alkaloid tomatine has clear heterogeneous distribution across the tomato leaf lamina. Furthermore, LAESI analyses revealed perturbations in alkaloid content following pathogen infection. These results show the clear potential of LAESI-based imaging approaches as a convenient and rapid way to perform metabolomics analyses on living tissues. However, a range of limitations and factors have also been identified that must be taken into consideration when interpreting LAESI-derived data. Such aspects deserve further evaluation before this approach can be applied in a routine manner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1424-35
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


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