Incidental detection of pancreatic cysts has increased dramatically over the last decade, but risk stratification and clinical management remain a challenge. Mucinous cysts are precursor lesions to pancreatic cancer, however, the majority are indolent. Current diagnostics cannot identify mucinous cysts that harbor cancer or reliably differentiate these lesions from nonmucinous cysts, which present minimal risk of malignant progression. We previously determined that activity of two aspartyl proteases was increased in mucinous cysts. Using a global protease activity profiling technology, termed multiplex substrate profiling by mass spectrometry (MSP-MS), we now show that aminopeptidase activity is also elevated in mucinous cysts. The serine aminopeptidase, tripeptidyl peptidase 1 (TPP1), was detected by proteomic analysis of cyst fluid samples and quantitation using targeted MS demonstrated that this protease was significantly more abundant in mucinous cysts. In a cohort of 110 cyst fluid samples, TPP1 activity was increased more than 3-fold in mucinous cysts relative to nonmucinous cysts. Moreover, TPP1 activity is primarily associated with mucinous cysts that harbor high-grade dysplasia or invasive carcinoma. Although only 59% accurate for differentiating these lesions, measurement of TPP1 activity may improve early detection and treatment of high-risk pancreatic cysts when used in conjunction with other promising biomarkers.
Keywords: biomarker; exopeptidase; pancreatic cancer; parallel reaction monitoring; serine protease.