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ToF-SIMS imaging of plasma membrane lipids with sub-micrometer resolution



Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) was used for label-free analyses of the molecular lateral distribution of two different epithelial cell membranes (PANC-1 and UROtsa). The goal of the research was to enhance the ion yield of specific membrane molecules for improving the membrane imaging capability of ToF-SIMS on the nanoscale lateral dimension. For this task, a special silicon wafer sandwich preparation technique was optimized using different wafer materials, spacers, and washing procedures. Under optimized preparation conditions, the yield could be significantly enhanced, allowing imaging of the inhomogeneous distribution of phosphocholine (common head group for phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin) of a PANC-1 cell membrane's outer lipid layer with a lateral resolution of less than 200 nm. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.