Advances in imaging secondary ion mass spectrometry for biological samples

Steven G. Boxer, Mary L. Kraft, Peter K. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Imaging mass spectrometry combines the power of mass spectrometry to identify complex molecules based on mass with sample imaging. Recent advances in secondary ion mass spectrometry have improved sensitivity and spatial resolution, so that these methods have the potential to bridge between high-resolution structures obtained by X-ray crystallography and cyro-electron microscopy and ultrastructure visualized by conventional light microscopy. Following background information on the method and instrumentation, we address the key issue of sample preparation. Because mass spectrometry is performed in high vacuum, it is essential to preserve the lateral organization of the sample while removing bulk water, and this has been a major barrier for applications to biological systems. Recent applications of imaging mass spectrometry to cell biology, microbial communities, and biosynthetic pathways are summarized briefly, and studies of biological membrane organization are described in greater depth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-74
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual Review of Biophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Chemical composition imaging
  • Dynamic SIMS
  • Membrane organization
  • NanoSIMS
  • ToF-SIMS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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