Molecular & cellular proteomics : MCP

Unconventional secretion is a major contributor of cancer cell line secretomes.

PMID 23268930


A challenge in achieving optimal management of cancer is the discovery of secreted biomarkers that represent useful surrogates for the disease and could be measured noninvasively. Because of the problems encountered in the proteomic interrogation of plasma, secretomes have been proposed as an alternative source of tumor markers that might be enriched with secreted proteins relevant to the disease. However, secretome analysis faces analytical challenges that interfere with the search for true secreted tumor biomarkers. Here, we have addressed two of the main challenges of secretome analysis in comparative discovery proteomics. First, we carried out a kinetics experiment whereby secretomes and lysates of tumor cells were analyzed to monitor cellular viability during secretome production. Interestingly, the proteomic signal of a group of secreted proteins correlated well with the apoptosis induced by serum starvation and could be used as an internal cell viability marker. We then addressed a second challenge relating to contamination of serum proteins in secretomes caused by the required use of serum for tumor cell culture. The comparative proteomic analysis between cell lines labeled with SILAC showed a number of false positives coming from serum and that several proteins are both in serum and being secreted from tumor cells. A thorough study of secretome methodology revealed that under optimized experimental conditions there is a substantial fraction of proteins secreted through unconventional secretion in secretomes. Finally, we showed that some of the nuclear proteins detected in secretomes change their cellular localization in breast tumors, explaining their presence in secretomes and suggesting that tumor cells use unconventional secretion during tumorigenesis. The unconventional secretion of proteins into the extracellular space exposes a new layer of genome post-translational regulation and reveals an untapped source of potential tumor biomarkers and drug targets.