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Untargeted Metabolite Mapping in 3D Cell Culture Models using High Spectral Resolution FT-ICR Mass Spectrometry Imaging

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9522–9529
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number15
Early online date2 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2019


Multicellular tumor spheroids (MTS) are a well-established model system for drug development and are a valuable in vitro research tool for use prior to employing animal models. These 3D-cell cultures are thought to display chemical gradients of oxygen and nutrients throughout their structure, giving rise to distinct microenvironments in radial layers, thus mimicking the pathophysiological environment of a tumor. Little is known about the localized distributions of metabolites within these microenvironments. To address this, here we utilize high spectral resolution Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR), MALDI mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) to image the distribution of endogenous metabolites in breast cancer MCF-7 spheroids. We show that known specific metabolite markers (adenosine phosphates and glutathione) indicate that the central region of these cell culture models experiences increased hypoxic and oxidative stress. By using discriminatory analysis, we have identified which m/z values localize towards the outer proliferative or central hypoxic regions of an MTS and have assigned elemental formula with sub-ppm error. Using this information, we have mapped these metabolites back to distinct pathways to improve our understanding of the molecular environment and biochemistry of these tumor models.

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