Clin Endosc.  2013 Nov;46(6):611-619.

Application of Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight Imaging Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF IMS) for Premalignant Gastrointestinal Lesions

  • 1Digestive Disease Center, CHA Bundang Medical Center, CHA University, Seongnam, Korea.
  • 2Cancer Prevention Research Center, CHA University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Lee Gil Ya Cancer and Diabetes Institute, Gachon University, Incheon, Korea.


Imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) is currently receiving large attention from the mass spectrometric community, although its use is not yet well known in the clinic. As matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI)-IMS can show the biomolecular changes in cells as well as tissues, it can be an ideal tool for biomedical diagnostics as well as the molecular diagnosis of clinical specimens, especially aimed at the prompt detection of premalignant lesions much earlier before overt mass formation, or for obtaining histologic clues from endoscopic biopsy. Besides its use for pathologic diagnosis, MALDI-IMS is also a powerful tool for the detection and localization of drugs, proteins, and lipids in tissue. Measurement of parameters that define and control the implications, challenges, and opportunities associated with the application of IMS to biomedical tissue studies might be feasible through a deep understanding of mass spectrometry. In this focused review series, new insights into the molecular processes relevant to IMS as well as other field applications are introduced.


Spectrometry, mass, matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization; Imaging mass spectrometer; Biological markers; Premalignant gastrointestinal lesions; Chemoprevention

MeSH Terms

Mass Spectrometry*
Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization


  • Fig. 1 Schematic representation of the matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-IMS) procedure. MALDI-IMS has developed as a promising tool for investigating the spatial distribution of biomolecules in intact tissue specimens. Ion densities of various molecules can be displayed as heat maps while preserving anatomical structures. For example, in gastric cancer, specially mounted tissues are subjected to matrix application and MALDI-TOF analysis. The discovered proteomes can be visualized in paraffin-embedded slides or visualized through confocal microscopy with a fluorescence-tagged biomarker antibody. MALDI-TOF molecular imaging can yield molecular images through an imaging software. IHC, immunohistochemistry.

  • Fig. 2 (A) Schematic representation of label-free quantification. (B) Proteome discovery for biomarkers predicting the risk of colitic cancer in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn disease (CD). The proteomes specifically identified as significantly increased in both UC and CD are considered potential markers in high-risk patients such as those with long-standing disease and extensive involvement of active diseases.


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