High-Density, Targeted Monitoring of Tyrosine Phosphorylation Reveals Activated Signaling Networks in Human Tumors

Cancer Res. 2021 May 1;81(9):2495-2509. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-20-3804. Epub 2021 Jan 28.


Tyrosine phosphorylation (pTyr) plays a pivotal role in signal transduction and is commonly dysregulated in cancer. As a result, profiling tumor pTyr levels may reveal therapeutic insights critical to combating disease. Existing discovery and targeted mass spectrometry-based methods used to monitor pTyr networks involve a tradeoff between broad coverage of the pTyr network, reproducibility in target identification across analyses, and accurate quantification. To address these limitations, we developed a targeted approach, termed "SureQuant pTyr," coupling low input pTyr enrichment with a panel of isotopically labeled internal standard peptides to guide data acquisition of low-abundance tyrosine phosphopeptides. SureQuant pTyr allowed for reliable quantification of several hundred commonly dysregulated pTyr targets with high quantitative accuracy, improving the robustness and usability of targeted mass spectrometry assays. We established the clinical applicability of SureQuant pTyr by profiling pTyr signaling levels in human colorectal tumors using minimal sample input, characterizing patient-specific oncogenic-driving mechanisms. While in some cases pTyr profiles aligned with previously reported proteomic, genomic, and transcriptomic molecular characterizations, we highlighted instances of new insights gained using pTyr characterization and emphasized the complementary nature of pTyr measurements with traditional biomarkers for improving patient stratification and identifying therapeutic targets. The turn-key nature of this approach opens the door to rapid and reproducible pTyr profiling in research and clinical settings alike and enables pTyr-based measurements for applications in precision medicine. SIGNIFICANCE: SureQuant pTyr is a mass spectrometry-based targeted method that enables sensitive and selective targeted quantitation of several hundred low-abundance tyrosine phosphorylated peptides commonly dysregulated in cancer, including oncogenic signaling networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Phosphopeptides / analysis
  • Phosphopeptides / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Interaction Maps
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Proteome / analysis*
  • Proteome / metabolism
  • Proteomics / methods
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Tyrosine / metabolism*


  • Phosphopeptides
  • Proteome
  • Tyrosine
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors