Rapid communications in mass spectrometry : RCM

In vivo isotopically labeled atherosclerotic aorta plaques in ApoE KO mice and molecular profiling by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometric imaging.

PMID 25303476


The ability to quantify rates of formation, regression and/or remodeling of atherosclerotic plaque should facilitate a better understanding of the pathogenesis and management of cardiovascular disease. In the current study, we coupled a stable isotope labeled tracer protocol with matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) to examine spatial and temporal lipid dynamics in atherosclerotic plaque. To promote plaque formation in the aorta region, ApoE KO mice were fed a high cholesterol diet (0.15% cholesterol) and orally dosed with (2,2,3,4,4,6-d(6))-cholesterol over several weeks. Tissue sections of ~10 µm thickness were analyzed by MALDI-MSI using matrix deposition by either chemical sublimation or acoustic droplet ejection. MALDI-MSI yielded distinct spatial distribution information for a variety of lipid classes including specific lysophosphatidylcholines typically associated with atherosclerosis-related tissue damage such as phospholipase 2 (Lp-PLA(2)) that mediate chemotactic responses to inflammation (e.g. LPC 16:0, LPC 18:0 and LPC 18:1) as well as free cholesterol and cholesteryl esters that contribute to atheroma formation. MALDI mass spectra acquired from aorta tissue sections clearly distinguished non-esterified and esterified versions of (2,2,3,4,4,6-d(6))-cholesterol within aortic plaque regions and showed distinct spatial accumulation of the cholesterol tracer. The ability to couple stable isotope based protocols with MALDI-MSI enables a novel strategy to characterize the effects of therapeutic treatments on atherosclerotic plaque formation, regression and potential remodeling of the complex lipid components with high chemical specificity and spatiotemporal information.