Rationale: Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) of the proteome of a tissue has been an established technique for the past decade. In the last few years, MALDI-MSI of the N-glycome has emerged as a novel MALDI-MSI technique. To assess the accuracy and clinical significance of the N-linked glycan spatial distribution, we have developed a method that utilises MALDI-MSI followed by liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) in order to assign glycan structures to the differentiating MALDI-MSI glycan masses released from the tissue glycoproteins.
Methods and Results: Our workflow presents a comprehensive list of instructions on how to (i) apply MALDI-MSI to spatially map the N-glycome across formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) clinical samples, (ii) structurally characterise N-glycans extracted from consecutive FFPE tissue sections by LC/MS/MS, and (iii) match relevant N-glycan masses from MALDI-MSI with confirmed N-glycan structures determined by LC/MS/MS.
Conclusions: Our protocol provides groups that are new to this technique with instructions how to establish N-glycan MALDI-MSI in their laboratory. Furthermore, the method assigns N-glycan structural detail to the masses obtained in the MALDI-MS image.