Background: Tyrosine kinases drive the proliferation and survival of many human cancers. Thus profiling the global state of tyrosine phosphorylation of a tumor is likely to provide a wealth of information that can be used to classify tumors for prognosis and prediction. However, the comprehensive analysis of tyrosine phosphorylation of large numbers of human cancer specimens is technically challenging using current methods.
Methodology/principal findings: We used a phosphoproteomic method termed SH2 profiling to characterize the global state of phosphotyrosine (pTyr) signaling in human lung cancer cell lines. This method quantifies the phosphorylated binding sites for SH2 domains, which are used by cells to respond to changes in pTyr during signaling. Cells could be grouped based on SH2 binding patterns, with some clusters correlated with EGF receptor (EGFR) or K-RAS mutation status. Binding of specific SH2 domains, most prominently RAS pathway activators Grb2 and ShcA, correlated with EGFR mutation and sensitivity to the EGFR inhibitor erlotinib. SH2 binding patterns also reflected MET activation and could identify cells driven by multiple kinases. The pTyr responses of cells treated with kinase inhibitors provided evidence of distinct mechanisms of inhibition.
Conclusions/significance: This study illustrates the potential of modular protein domains and their proteomic binding profiles as powerful molecular diagnostic tools for tumor classification and biomarker identification.