Unlocking Cancer Glycomes from Histopathological Formalin-fixed and Paraffin-embedded (FFPE) Tissue Microdissections

Mol Cell Proteomics. 2017 Apr;16(4):524-536. doi: 10.1074/mcp.M116.062414. Epub 2017 Jan 25.


N- and O-glycans are attractive clinical biomarkers as glycosylation changes in response to diseases. The limited availability of defined clinical specimens impedes glyco-biomarker identification and validation in large patient cohorts. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) clinical specimens are the common form of sample preservation in clinical pathology, but qualitative and quantitative N- and O-glycomics of such samples has not been feasible to date. Here, we report a highly sensitive and glycan isomer selective method for simultaneous N- and O-glycomics from histopathological slides. As few as 2000 cells isolated from FFPE tissue sections by laser capture microdissection were sufficient for in-depth histopathology-glycomics using porous graphitized carbon nanoLC ESI-MS/MS. N- and O-glycan profiles were similar between unstained and hematoxylin and eosin stained FFPE samples but differed slightly compared with fresh tissue. This method provides the key to unlock glyco-biomarker information from FFPE histopathological tissues archived in pathology laboratories worldwide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Glycomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Laser Capture Microdissection / methods*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • Polysaccharides / analysis
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Tissue Fixation


  • Biomarkers
  • Polysaccharides