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Lipid Landscape of the Human Retina and Supporting Tissues Revealed by High-Resolution Imaging Mass Spectrometry


Anderson DMGDavid M G , Messinger JDJeffrey D , Patterson NHNathan H , Rivera ESEmilio S , Kotnala AAnkita , Spraggins JMJeffrey M , Caprioli RMRichard M , Curcio CAChristine A , Schey KLKevin L . Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. 2020 7 24; 31(12). 2426-2436


The human retina provides vision at light levels ranging from starlight to sunlight. Its supporting tissues regulate plasma-delivered lipophilic essentials for vision, including retinoids. The macula is an anatomic specialization for high-acuity and color vision that is also vulnerable to prevalent blinding diseases. The retina’s exquisite architecture comprises numerous cell types that are aligned horizontally, yielding structurally distinct cell, synaptic, and vascular layers that are visible in histology and in diagnostic clinical imaging. MALDI imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) is now capable of uniting low micrometer spatial resolution with high levels of chemical specificity. In this study, a multimodal imaging approach fortified with accurate multi-image registration was used to localize lipids in human retina tissue at laminar, cellular, and subcellular levels. Multimodal imaging results indicate differences in distributions and abundances of lipid species across and within single cell types. Of note are distinct localizations of signals within specific layers of the macula. For example, phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylinositol lipids were localized to central RPE cells, whereas specific plasmalogen lipids were localized to cells of the perifoveal RPE and Henle fiber layer. Subcellular compartments of photoreceptors were distinguished by PE(20:0_22:5) in the outer nuclear layer, PE(18:0_22:6) in outer and inner segments, and cardiolipin CL(70:5) in the mitochondria-rich inner segments. Several lipids, differing by a single double bond, have markedly different distributions between the central fovea and the ganglion cell and inner nuclear layers. A lipid atlas, initiated in this study, can serve as a reference database for future examination of diseased tissues.