Metals are found ubiquitously throughout an organism, with their biological role dictated by both their chemical reactivity and abundance within a specific anatomical region. Within the brain, metals have a highly compartmentalized distribution, depending on the primary function they play within the central nervous system. Imaging the spatial distribution of metals has provided unique insight into the biochemical architecture of the brain, allowing direct correlation between neuroanatomical regions and their known function with regard to metal-dependent processes. In addition, several age-related neurological disorders feature disrupted metal homeostasis, which is often confined to small regions of the brain that are otherwise difficult to analyze. Here, we describe a comprehensive method for quantitatively imaging metals in the mouse brain, using laser ablation - inductively coupled plasma - mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) and specially designed image processing software. Focusing on iron, copper and zinc, which are three of the most abundant and disease-relevant metals within the brain, we describe the essential steps in sample preparation, analysis, quantitative measurements and image processing to produce maps of metal distribution within the low micrometer resolution range. This technique, applicable to any cut tissue section, is capable of demonstrating the highly variable distribution of metals within an organ or system, and can be used to identify changes in metal homeostasis and absolute levels within fine anatomical structures.
- Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry
- Issue 119
- Laser ablation