Microanalytical isotope ratio measurements and elemental mapping using laser ablation ICP-MS for tissue thin sections: zinc tracer studies in rats

Dagmar S. Urgast, Ou Ou, Margaret J. Gordon, Andrea Raab, Graeme F. Nixon, In-Sook Kwun, John H. Beattie, Joerg Feldmann

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24 Citations (Scopus)


The kinetics of zinc absorption, metabolism and excretion is extensively studied by nutritionists. Stable isotopes of zinc can be used to identify body zinc compartments that have different turnover kinetics. Since the compartments might belong to physiological subsections of different organs, there is a need for microsampling analysis to determine isotope ratios of the trace element zinc in tissue samples. Here, we study the feasibility to use laser ablation coupled to quadrupole ICP-MS for the determination of zinc tracers given to rats at different time points with the aim to generate isotope ratio bioimages of heart tissue. A double tracer (Zn-70 and Zn-67) experiment with rats was designed to label the exchangeable zinc pool as well as the stable zinc pool. The isotope ratios determined by laser ablation ICP-MS were evaluated by additional measurements of tissue digests. Accumulated tracers which made up more than 0.1% of total zinc could be identified in the tissues of the treated rats. It was established that at least 50 measurements from the microsampling were necessary to distinguish between controls and a tracer treated rat resulting in reduced resolution of the bioimage. With the parameters used, features in the tissue thin sections of at least 250 mu m(2) in size are necessary to detect the incorporation of a tracer. When different time points have to be measured, higher precisions are required and therefore a larger area needs to be ablated (1 mm(2)). Using the bioimages and pool measurements from one physiological feature, it was possible to show that the aorta cell walls incorporate the zinc tracer at the different time points.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-297
Number of pages11
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • zinc
  • bioimaging
  • tracer
  • rat
  • accumulation
  • isotope ratio
  • mapping
  • thin sections
  • heart
  • Liver
  • muscle
  • plasma-mass spectrometry
  • brain
  • ZN
  • FE
  • CU
  • ZN-65


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