The pool of endogenous water-soluble oligosaccharides found in the stems of wheat (Triticum aestivum) is being investigated as a potential indicator of grain yield. Techniques such as liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry (LC-MS) can profile these analytes but provide no spatial information regarding their distribution in the wheat stem. The imaging matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) mass spectrometry technique has not been utilized for the analysis of oligosaccharides in plant systems previously. Imaging MALDI mass spectrometry was used to analyse cross and longitudinal sections from the stems of Triticum aestivum. A range of oligosaccharides up to Hex(11) were observed. Water-soluble oligosaccharides were ionized as potassiated molecules, and found to be located in the stem pith that is retained predominantly around the inner stem wall. Imaging MALDI analyses provided spatial information on endogenous oligosaccharides present in wheat stems. The technique was found to offer comparable sensitivities for oligosaccharide detection to those of our established LC-MS method, and has potential for broad application in studying the in situ localization of other compound types in plant material.
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