Cancer secretomes are a promising source for biomarker discovery. The analysis of cancer secretomes still faces some difficulties mainly related to the intracellular contamination, which hinders the qualification and follow-up validations. This study aimed to establish a high-quality secretome of A549 cells by using the cellular proteome as a reference and to test the merits of this refined secretome for biomarker discovery for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Using one-dimensional gel electrophoresis followed by liquid-chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, we comprehensively investigated the secretome and the concurrent cellular proteome of A549 cells. A high-quality secretome consisting of 382 proteins was refined from 889 initial secretory proteins. More than 85.3% of proteins were annotated as secreted and 76.8% as extracellular or membrane-bound. The discriminative power of the lung-cancer associated secretome was confirmed by gene expression and serum proteomic data. The elevated level of C4b-binding Protein (C4BP) in NSCLC blood was verified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA, p = 6.07e-6). Moreover, the serum C4BP level in 89 patients showed a strong association with the clinical staging of NSCLC. Our reference-experiment-driven strategy is simple and widely applicable, and may facilitate the identification of novel promising biomarkers of lung cancer.
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