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Molecular imaging of lipids in cells and tissues

Journal article
Authors Katrin Börner
Per Malmberg
Jan-Eric Månsson
Håkan Nygren
Published in International Journal of Mass Spectrometry
Volume 260
Issue 2-3
Pages 128-136
Publication year 2007
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Pages 128-136
Language en
Subject categories Medical and Health Sciences


The distribution pattern of lipid species in biological tissues was analyzed with imaging mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS; time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry). The first application shows distribution of a glycosphingolipid, the galactosylceramide-sulfate (sulfatide) with different hydrocarbon chain lengths and the fatty acids palmitate and oleate in rat cerebellum. Sulfatides were seen localized in regions suggested as paranodal areas of rat cerebellar white matter as well as in the granular layer, with highest concentrations at the borders of the white matter. Different distribution patterns could be shown for the fatty acid C16:0 palmitate and C18:1 oleate in rat cerebellum, which seem to origin partly from the hydrocarbon chains of phosphatidylcholine. Results were shown for two different tissue preparation methods, which were plunge-freezing and cryostat sectioning as well as high-pressure freezing, freeze-fracturing and freeze-drying. The second application shows TOF-SIMS analysis on a biological trial of choleratoxin treatment in mouse intestine. The effect of cholera toxin on lipids in the intestinal epithelium was shown by comparing control and cholera toxin treated mouse intestine samples. A significant increase of the cholesterol concentration was seen after treatment. Cholesterol was mainly localized to the brush border of enterocytes of the intestinal villi, which could be explained by the presence of cholesterol-rich lipid rafts present on the microvilli or by relations to cholesterol uptake. After cholera toxin exposure, cholesterol was seen increased in the nuclei of enterocytes and apparently in the interstitium of the villi. We find that imaging TOF-SIMS is a powerful tool for studies of lipid distributions in cells and tissues, enabling the elucidation of their role in cell function and biology.

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