Mass spectrometry imaging and profiling of individual cells and subcellular structures provide unique analytical capabilities for biological and biomedical research, including determination of the biochemical heterogeneity of cellular populations and intracellular localization of pharmaceuticals. Two mass spectrometry technologies-secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI MS)-are most often used in micro-bioanalytical investigations. Recent advances in ion probe technologies have increased the dynamic range and sensitivity of analyte detection by SIMS, allowing two- and three-dimensional localization of analytes in a variety of cells. SIMS operating in the mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) mode can routinely reach spatial resolutions at the submicron level; therefore, it is frequently used in studies of the chemical composition of subcellular structures. MALDI MS offers a large mass range and high sensitivity of analyte detection. It has been successfully applied in a variety of single-cell and organelle profiling studies. Innovative instrumentation such as scanning microprobe MALDI and mass microscope spectrometers enables new subcellular MSI measurements. Other approaches for MS-based chemical imaging and profiling include those based on near-field laser ablation and inductively-coupled plasma MS analysis, which offer complementary capabilities for subcellular chemical imaging and profiling.This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Imaging Mass Spectrometry: A User's Guide to a New Technique for Biological and Biomedical Research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5036-5051
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Proteomics
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 30 2012


  • Elemental imaging
  • Mass cytometry
  • Matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization
  • Secondary ion mass spectrometry
  • Subcellular profiling
  • Tissue imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics


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