Enhanced visualization of small peptides absorbed through a rat intestinal membrane was achieved by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI-IMS) with the aid of phytic acid as a matrix additive. Penetrants through intestinal peptide transporter 1, i.e., glycyl-sarcosine (Gly-Sar, 147.1 m/z) and antihypertensive dipeptide, Val-Tyr (281.2 m/z), were chosen for MALDI-IMS. The signal-to-noise (S/N) ratios of dipeptides Gly-Sar and Val-Tyr were seen to increase by 2.4- and 8.0-fold, respectively, when using a 2′,4′,6′-trihydroxyacetophenone (THAP) matrix containing 5.0 mM phytic acid, instead of the THAP matrix alone. Owing to the phytic-acid-aided MALDI-IMS method, Gly-Sar and Val-Tyr absorbed in the rat intestinal membrane were successfully visualized. The proposed imaging method also provided useful information on intestinal peptide absorption; to some extent, Val-Tyr was rapidly hydrolyzed to Tyr by peptidases located at the intestinal microvillus during the absorption process. In conclusion, the strongly acidic additive, phytic acid, is beneficial for enhancing the visualization of small peptides using MALDI-IMS, owing to the suppression of ionization-interfering salts in the tissue.
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