Imaging mass spectrometry of frontal white matter lipid changes in human alcoholics

18 December 2018

BACKGROUND: Chronic alcohol use disorders (AUD) are associated with white matter (WM) degeneration with altered myelin integrity. Matrix assisted laser desorption ionization-imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI-IMS) enables high throughput analysis of myelin lipid biochemical histopathology to help characterize disease mechanisms. PURPOSE: This study utilized MALDI-IMS to investigate frontal lobe WM myelin lipid abnormalities in AUD. METHODS: Standardized cores of formalin-fixed WM from Brodmann Area 4 (BA4) and BA8/9 of 20 postmortem AUD and 19 control adult human brains were embedded in carboxymethyl-cellulose, cryo-sectioned (8 μm), thaw-mounted onto indium tin oxide (ITO) -coated glass slides, and sublimed with 2,5-dihydroxybenzxoic acid (DHB) matrix. Lipids were imaged by MALDI-time of flight in the negative ionization mode. Data were visualized with FlexImaging software v4.0 and analyzed with ClinProTools v3.0. RESULTS: Principal component analysis (PCA) and data bar plots of MALDI-IMS data differentiated AUD from control WM. The dominant effect of AUD was to broadly reduce expression of sphingolipids (sulfatides and ceramides) and phospholipids. Data bar plots demonstrated overall similar responses to AUD in BA4 and BA8/9. However, differential regional effects of AUD on WM lipid profiles were manifested by non-overlapping expression or discordant responses to AUD for a subset of lipid ions. CONCLUSIONS: Human AUD is associated with substantial inhibition of frontal lobe WM lipid expression with regional variability in these effects. MALDI-IMS can be used to characterize the nature of AUD-associated lipid biochemical abnormalities for correlation with lifetime exposures and WM degeneration, altered gene expression, and responses to abstinence or treatment.