In the last few decades, MALDI-TOF MS has become a useful technique not only in proteomics, but also as a fast and specific tool for whole cell analysis through intact cell mass spectrometry (IC-MS). The present study evaluated IC-MS as a novel tool for the detection of distinct patterns that can be observed after exposure to a certain toxin or concentration by utilizing the eukaryotic fish cell line RTL-W1. Two different viability assays were performed to define the range for IC-MS investigations, each of which employing copper sulfate, acridine, and β-naphthoflavone (BNF) as model compounds for several classes of environmental toxins. The IC-MS of RTL-W1 cells revealed not only specific spectral patterns for the various toxins, but also that the concentration used had an effect on RTL-W1 profiles. After the exposure with copper sulfate and acridine, the spectra of RTL-W1 showed a significant increase of certain peaks in the higher mass range (m/z >7000), which is probably attributed to the apoptosis of RTL-W1. On the contrary, exposure to BNF showed a distinct change of ion abundances only in the lower mass range (m/z <7000). Furthermore, a set of mass peaks could be identified as a specific biomarker for a single toxin treatment, so IC-MS demonstrates a new method for the distinction of toxic effects in fish cells. Due to fast sample preparation and high throughput, IC-MS offers great potential for ecotoxicological studies to investigate cellular effects of different substances and complex environmental samples.
Kober, S. L., Meyer-Alert, H., Grienitz, D., Hollert, H., & Frohme, M. (2015). Intact cell mass spectrometry as a rapid and specific tool for the differentiation of toxic effects in cell-based ecotoxicological test systems. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 407(25), 7721–7731. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-015-8937-2