Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) tissue imaging mass spectrometry is particularly promising among the numerous applications of mass spectrometry. It is used for probing and analyzing the spatial arrangement of a wide range of molecules, including proteins, peptides, lipids, drugs, and metabolites, directly in thin slices of tissue. In the field of proteomics, the technology avoids tedious and time-consuming extraction and fractionation steps classically required for sample analysis. MALDI imaging mass spectrometry is increasingly recognized as a powerful method for clinical proteomics, particularly in cancer research. The technology has particular potential for the discovery of new tissue biomarker candidates, classification of tumors, early diagnosis or prognosis, elucidating pathogenesis pathways, and therapy monitoring. Over recent years, MALDI imaging mass spectrometry has been used for molecular profiling and imaging directly in male and female reproductive tissues. This review will consider some of the recent publications in the field, addressing a range of issues covering embryo development, gene expression product profiling during gametogenesis, and seeking and identifying biomarkers of reproductive cancers. The wealth of advances in mass spectrometry imaging will inevitably attract biologists and clinicians as the advantages and power of this technology become more widely known. This review will also discuss bottlenecks and the many technical issues that remain to be resolved before laboratories in the field can adopt the technology. We foresee that MALDI imaging mass spectrometry will have a major impact in reproductive research by opening new avenues to the understanding of various molecular mechanisms and the diagnosis of reproductive pathologies.
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Vol. 86 • No. 3