Pneumatically Sprayed Gold Nanoparticles for Mass Spectrometry Imaging of Neurotransmitters

Nolan McLaughlin, Tyler M. Bielinski, Caitlin M. Tressler, Eric Barton, Kristine Glunde, Katherine A. Stumpo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using citrate-capped gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) for laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry (LDI-MS) is an approach that has demonstrated broad applicability to ionization of different classes of molecules. Here, we show a simple AuNP-based approach for the ionization of neurotransmitters. Specifically, the detection of acetylcholine, dopamine, epinephrine, glutamine, 4-aminobutyric acid, norepinephrine, octopamine, and serotonin was achieved at physiologically relevant concentrations in serum and homogenized tissue. Additionally, pneumatic spraying of AuNPs onto tissue sections facilitated mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) of rabbit brain tissue sections, zebrafish embryos, and neuroblastoma cells for several neurotransmitters simultaneously using this quick and simple sample preparation. AuNP LDI-MS achieved mapping of neurotransmitters in fine structures of zebrafish embryos and neuroblastoma cells at a lateral spatial resolution of 5 μm. The use of AuNPs to ionize small aminergic neurotransmitters in situ provides a fast, high-spatial resolution method for simultaneous detection of a class of molecules that typically evade comprehensive detection with traditional matrixes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2452-2461
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2 2020


  • gold nanoparticles
  • mass spectrometry imaging
  • neuroblastoma
  • neurotransmitters
  • zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Spectroscopy


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