The lipid compositions of different breast tumor microenvironments are largely unknown due to limitations in lipid imaging techniques. Imaging lipid distributions would enhance our understanding of processes occurring inside growing tumors, such as cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and metastasis. Recent developments in MALDI mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) enable rapid and specific detection of lipids directly from thin tissue sections. In this study, we performed multimodal imaging of acylcarnitines, phosphatidylcholines (PC), a lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC), and a sphingomyelin (SM) from different microenvironments of breast tumor xenograft models, which carried tdTomato red fluorescent protein as a hypoxia-response element-driven reporter gene. The MSI molecular lipid images revealed spatially heterogeneous lipid distributions within tumor tissue. Four of the most-abundant lipid species, namely PC(16:0/16:0), PC(16:0/18:1), PC(18:1/18:1), and PC(18:0/18:1), were localized in viable tumor regions, whereas LPC(16:0/0:0) was detected in necrotic tumor regions. We identified a heterogeneous distribution of palmitoylcarnitine, stearoylcarnitine, PC(16:0/22:1), and SM(d18:1/16:0) sodium adduct, which colocalized primarily with hypoxic tumor regions. For the first time, we have applied a multimodal imaging approach that has combined optical imaging and MALDI-MSI with ion mobility separation to spatially localize and structurally identify acylcarnitines and a variety of lipid species present in breast tumor xenograft models.
- Mass spectrometry
- Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ ionization
- Multimodal imaging
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology