Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Young-Jin Lee


High-spatial and high-mass resolution laser desorption ionization (LDI) mass spectrometric (MS) imaging technology was developed for the attainment of MS images of higher quality containing more information on the relevant cellular and molecular biology in unprecedented depth. The distribution of plant metabolites is asymmetric throughout the cells and tissues, and therefore the increase in the spatial resolution was pursued to reveal the localization of plant metabolites at the cellular level by MS imaging. For achieving high-spatial resolution, the laser beam size was reduced by utilizing an optical fiber with small core diameter (25 μm) in a vacuum matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-linear ion trap (vMALDI-LTQ) mass spectrometer. Matrix application was greatly improved using oscillating capillary nebulizer. As a result, single cell level spatial resolution of ~ 12 μm was achieved. MS imaging at this high spatial resolution was directly applied to a whole Arabidopsis flower and the substructures of an anther and single pollen grains at the stigma and anther were successfully visualized. MS imaging of high spatial resolution was also demonstrated to the secondary roots of Arabidopsis thaliana and a high degree of localization of detected metabolites was successfully unveiled. This was the first MS imaging on the root for molecular species. MS imaging with high mass resolution was also achieved by utilizing the LTQ-Orbitrap mass spectrometer for the direct identification of the surface metabolites on the Arabidopsis stem and root and differentiation of isobaric ions having the same nominal mass with no need of tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS).

MS imaging at high-spatial and high-mass resolution was also applied to cer1 mutant of the model system Arabidopsis thaliana to demonstrate its usefulness in biological studies and reveal associated metabolite changes in terms of spatial distribution and/or abundances compared to those of wild-type. The spatial distribution of targeted metabolites, mainly waxes and flavonoids, was systematically explored on various organs, including flowers, leaves, stems, and roots at high spatial resolution of ~ 12-50 μm and the changes in the abundance level of these metabolites were monitored on the cer1 mutant with respect to the wild-type. This study revealed the metabolic biology of CER1 gene on each individual organ level with very detailed high spatial resolution. The separate MS images of isobaric metabolites, i.e. C29 alkane vs. C28 aldehyde could be constructed on both genotypes from MS imaging at high mass resolution. This allows tracking of abundance changes for those compounds along with the genetic mutation, which is not achievable with low mass resolution mass spectrometry. This study supported previous hypothesis of molecular function of CER1 gene as aldehyde decarbonylase, especially by displaying hyper accumulation of aldehydes and C30 fatty acid and decrease in abundance of alkanes and ketones in several plant organs of cer1 mutant.

The scope of analytes was further directed toward internal cell metabolites from the surface metabolites of the plant. MS profiling and imaging of internal cell metabolites were performed

on the vibratome section of Arabidopsis leaf. Vibratome sectioning of the leaf was first conducted to remove the surface cuticle layer and it was followed by enzymatic treatment of the section to induce the digestion of primary cell walls, middle lamella, and expose the internal cells underneath to the surface for detection with the laser by LDI-MS. The subsequent MS imaging onto the enzymatically treated vibratome section allowed us to map the distribution of the metabolites in the internal cell layers, linolenic acid (C18:3 FA) and linoleic acid (C18:2 FA).

The development of an assay for relative quantification of analytes at the single subcellular/organelle level by LDI-MS imaging was attempted and both plausibility and significant obstacles were seen. As a test system, native plant organelle, chloroplasts isolated

from the spinach leaves were used and the localization of isolated chloroplasts dispersed on the target plate in low density was monitored by detecting the ion signal of chlorophyll a (Chl a) degradation products such as pheophytin a and pheophobide a by LDI-MS imaging in combination with fluorescence microscopy. The number of chloroplasts and their localization visualized in the MS image exactly matched those in the fluorescence image especially at low density, which first shows the plausibility of single-organelle level quantification of analytes by LDI-MS. The accumulation level of Chl a within a single chloroplast detected by LDI-MS was compared to the fluorescence signal on a pixel-to-pixel basis to further confirm the correlations of the accumulation levels measured by two methods. The proportional correlation was observed only for the chloroplasts which do not show the significant leakage of chlorophyll indicated by MS ion signal of Chl a degradation products and fluorescence signal, which was presumably caused by the prior fluorescence measurement before MS imaging. Further investigation is necessary to make this method more complete and develop LDI-MS imaging as an effective analytical tool to evaluate a relative accumulation of analytes of interest at the single subcellular/organelle level.


Copyright Owner

Ji Hyun Jun



File Format


File Size

163 pages