A novel matrix application protocol for direct tissue mass spectrometry is presented. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization is a popular ionization procedure for direct tissue analysis and imaging mass spectrometry. Usually, matrixes are applied by dispensing droplets through either pipettes or automated dispensing machines, or by air-brushing. These techniques are very simple, but it was difficult to obtain uniform matrix crystals on the tissue surface, and nonuniform crystals degrade the spectrum qualities. Here we report a new matrix application protocol, which is a combination of spraying and dispensing droplets, and we have succeeded in overcoming these problems in conventional matrix applications on tissue surfaces. We call our new technique the "spray-droplet method". In this technique, tiny matrix crystals formed by spraying act as seeds for crystal growth. Our technique leads to matrix spots that are filled homogeneously with minute crystals. Such matrix crystals dramatically improve peak intensity and signal-to-noise ratio. In an example on a rat brain section, the number of detectable peaks was increased and signal intensity of m/z 5440 in our method was ∼30.6 times higher than that in conventional methods. We used this spray-droplet method with a chemical ink-jet technology for matrix deposition to succeed in MALDI imaging of signals, which were undetectable from the conventional matrix applications.
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