Metal-assisted polyatomic SIMS and laser desorption/ionization for enhanced small molecule imaging of bacterial biofilms

Sage J.B. Dunham, Troy J. Comi, Kyungwon Ko, Bin Li, Nameera F. Baig, Nydia Morales-Soto, Joshua D. Shrout, Paul W. Bohn, Jonathan V. Sweedler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) has become an important analytical tool for many sectors of science and medicine. As the application of MSI expands into new areas of inquiry, existing methodologies must be adapted and improved to meet emerging challenges. Particularly salient is the need for small molecule imaging methods that are compatible with complex multicomponent systems, a challenge that is amplified by the effects of analyte migration and matrix interference. With a focus on microbial biofilms from the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the relative advantages of two established microprobe-based MSI techniques-polyatomic secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and laser desorption/ionization-are compared, with emphasis on exploring the effect of surface metallization on small molecule imaging. A combination of qualitative image comparison and multivariate statistical analysis demonstrates that sputtering microbial biofilms with a 2.5 nm layer of gold selectively enhances C60-SIMS ionization for several molecular classes including rhamnolipids and 2-alkyl-quinolones. Metallization also leads to the reduction of in-source fragmentation and subsequent ionization of media-specific background polymers, which improves spectral purity and image quality. These findings show that the influence of metallization upon ionization is strongly dependent on both the surface architecture and the analyte class, and further demonstrate that metal-assisted C60-SIMS is a viable method for small molecule imaging of intact molecular ions in complex biological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number02A325
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biomaterials
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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