Single amino acid variations are highly associated with many human diseases. The direct detection of peptides containing single amino acid variants (SAAVs) derived from nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in serum can provide unique opportunities for SAAV associated biomarker discovery. In the present study, an isobaric labeling quantitative strategy was applied to identify and quantify variant peptides in serum samples of pancreatic cancer patients and other benign controls. The largest number of SAAV peptides to date in serum including 96 unique variant peptides were quantified in this quantitative analysis, of which five variant peptides showed a statistically significant difference between pancreatic cancer and other controls (p-value < 0.05). Significant differences in the variant peptide SDNCEDTPEAGYFAVAVVK from serotransferrin were detected between pancreatic cancer and controls, which was further validated by selected reaction monitoring (SRM) analysis. The novel biomarker panel obtained by combining α-1-antichymotrypsin (AACT), Thrombospondin-1 (THBS1) and this variant peptide showed an excellent diagnostic performance in discriminating pancreatic cancer from healthy controls (AUC = 0.98) and chronic pancreatitis (AUC = 0.90). These results suggest that large-scale analysis of SAAV peptides in serum may provide a new direction for biomarker discovery research.
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