• mass-spectrometry;
  • imaging;
  • metabolites;
  • metabolomics;
  • high-spatial resolution


We discuss and illustrate recent advances that have been made to image the distribution of metabolites among cells and tissues of plants using different mass spectrometry technologies. These technologies include matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization, desorption electrospray ionization, and secondary ion mass spectrometry. These are relatively new technological applications of mass spectrometry and they are providing highly spatially resolved data concerning the cellular distribution of metabolites. We discuss the advantages and limitations of each of these mass spectrometric methods, and provide a description of the technical barriers that are currently limiting the technology to the level of single-cell resolution. However, we anticipate that advances in the next few years will increase the resolving power of the technology to provide unprecedented data on the distribution of metabolites at the subcellular level, which will increase our ability to decipher new knowledge concerning the spatial organization of metabolic processes in plants.