MALDI mass-spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) is a technique capable of the label-free identification and visualization of analytes in tissue sections. We have previously applied MALDI-MSI to the study of the spatial distribution of tuberculosis (TB) drugs in necrotic lung granulomas characteristic of pulmonary TB disease, revealing heterogeneous and often suboptimal drug distributions. To investigate the impact of differential drug distributions at sites of infection, we sought to image mycobacterial biomarkers to coregister drugs and bacteria in lesion sections. The traditional method of visualizing Mycobacterium tuberculosis inside lesions is acid-fast staining and microscopy. Directly analyzing and visualizing mycobacteria-specific lipid markers by MALDI-MSI provides detailed molecular information on bacterial distributions within granulomas, complementary to high-spatial-resolution staining and microscopy approaches. Moreover, spatial monitoring of molecular changes occurring in bacteria during granuloma development can potentially contribute to a greater understanding of pulmonary-TB pathogenesis. In this study, we developed a MALDI-MSI method to detect and visualize specific glycolipids of mycobacteria within TB lesions. The biomarker signal correlated well with the bacteria visualized by IHC and acid-fast staining. This observation was seen in samples collected from multiple animal models. Although individual bacteria could not be visualized because of the limit of spatial resolution (50 μm), bacterial clusters were clearly detected and heterogeneously distributed throughout lesions. The ability to visualize drugs, metabolites, and bacterial biomarkers by MALDI-MSI enabled direct colocalization of drugs with specific bacterial target populations (identifiable by distinct metabolic markers). Future applications include assessing drug activity in lesions by visualizing drug-mediated lipid changes and other drug-induced mycobacterial metabolic responses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry