MALDI Imaging Mass Spectrometry Profiling of N-Glycans in Formalin-Fixed Paraffin Embedded Clinical Tissue Blocks and Tissue Microarrays
A recently developed matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI-IMS) method to spatially profile the location and distribution of multiple N-linked glycan species in frozen tissues has been extended and improved for the direct analysis of glycans in clinically derived formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues. Formalin-fixed tissues from normal mouse kidney, human pancreatic and prostate cancers, and a human hepatocellular carcinoma tissue microarray were processed by antigen retrieval followed by on-tissue digestion with peptide N-glycosidase F. The released N-glycans were detected by MALDI-IMS analysis, and the structural composition of a subset of glycans could be verified directly by on-tissue collision-induced fragmentation. Other structural assignments were confirmed by off-tissue permethylation analysis combined with multiple database comparisons. Imaging of mouse kidney tissue sections demonstrates specific tissue distributions of major cellular N-linked glycoforms in the cortex and medulla. Differential tissue distribution of N-linked glycoforms was also observed in the other tissue types. The efficacy of using MALDI-IMS glycan profiling to distinguish tumor from non-tumor tissues in a tumor microarray format is also demonstrated. This MALDI-IMS workflow has the potential to be applied to any FFPE tissue block or tissue microarray to enable higher throughput analysis of the global changes in N-glycosylation associated with cancers.