Selective Labeling and Identification of the Tumor Cell Proteome of Pancreatic Cancer in Vivo

Nancy G. Azizian, Delaney K. Sullivan, Litong Nie, Sammy Pardo, Dana Molleur, Junjie Chen, Susan T. Weintraub, Yulin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is among the deadliest cancers. Dissecting the tumor cell proteome from that of the non-tumor cells in the PDAC tumor bulk is critical for tumorigenesis studies, biomarker discovery, and development of therapeutics. However, investigating the tumor cell proteome has proven evasive due to the tumor's extremely complex cellular composition. To circumvent this technical barrier, we have combined bioorthogonal noncanonical amino acid tagging (BONCAT) and data-independent acquisition mass spectrometry (DIA-MS) in an orthotopic PDAC model to specifically identify the tumor cell proteome in vivo. Utilizing the tumor cell-specific expression of a mutant tRNA synthetase transgene, this approach provides tumor cells with the exclusive ability to incorporate an azide-bearing methionine analogue into newly synthesized proteins. The azide-tagged tumor cell proteome is subsequently enriched and purified via a bioorthogonal reaction and then identified and quantified using DIA-MS. Applying this workflow to the orthotopic PDAC model, we have identified thousands of proteins expressed by the tumor cells. Furthermore, by comparing the tumor cell and tumor bulk proteomes, we showed that the approach can distinctly differentiate proteins produced by tumor cells from those of non-tumor cells within the tumor microenvironment. Our study, for the first time, reveals the tumor cell proteome of PDAC under physiological conditions, providing broad applications for tumorigenesis, therapeutics, and biomarker studies in various human cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)858-866
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Proteome Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • azidonorleucine (ANL)
  • bioorthogonal noncanonical amino acid tagging (BONCAT)
  • data-independent acquisition mass spectrometry (DIA-MS)
  • methionyl-tRNA synthetase (MetRS)
  • pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC)
  • patient-derived xenografts (PDX)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Selective Labeling and Identification of the Tumor Cell Proteome of Pancreatic Cancer in Vivo'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this