1 Analytical Biosciences, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 Drug Research Academy A, Drug Research Academy, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Københavns Universitet3 unknown4 Drug Research Academy A, Drug Research Academy, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Københavns Universitet5 Analytical Biosciences, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet
The rhizome of Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) was analyzed by high-resolution mass spectrometry imaging and tandem mass spectrometry imaging. An atmospheric pressure matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization imaging ion source was combined with an orbital trapping mass spectrometer in order to obtain high-resolution imaging in mass and space. Sections of the rhizome were imaged with a spatial resolution of 10 μm in the positive ion mode, and a large number of secondary metabolites were localized and identified based on their accurate mass and MS/MS fragmentation patterns. Major tissue-specific metabolites, including free flavonoids, flavonoid glycosides and saponins, were successfully detected and visualized in images, showing their distributions at the cellular level. The analytical power of the technique was tested in the imaging of two isobaric licorice saponins with a mass difference of only 0.02 Da. With a mass resolving power of 140 000 and a bin width of 5 ppm in the image processing, the two compounds were well resolved in full-scan mode, and appeared with different distributions in the tissue sections. The identities of the compounds and their distributions were validated in a subsequent MS/MS imaging experiment, thereby confirming their identities and excluding possible analyte interference. The use of high spatial resolution, high mass resolution and tandem mass spectrometry in imaging experiments provides significant information about the biosynthetic pathway of flavonoids and saponins in legume species, combing the spatially resolved chemical information with morphological details at the microscopic level. Furthermore, the technique offers a scheme capable of high-throughput profiling of metabolites in plant tissues.