Discovery of Spatial Peptide Signatures for Neuroblastoma Risk Assessment by MALDI Mass Spectrometry Imaging

Cancers (Basel). 2021 Jun 25;13(13):3184. doi: 10.3390/cancers13133184.


Risk classification plays a crucial role in clinical management and therapy decisions in children with neuroblastoma. Risk assessment is currently based on patient criteria and molecular factors in single tumor biopsies at diagnosis. Growing evidence of extensive neuroblastoma intratumor heterogeneity drives the need for novel diagnostics to assess molecular profiles more comprehensively in spatial resolution to better predict risk for tumor progression and therapy resistance. We present a pilot study investigating the feasibility and potential of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) to identify spatial peptide heterogeneity in neuroblastoma tissues of divergent current risk classification: high versus low/intermediate risk. Univariate (receiver operating characteristic analysis) and multivariate (segmentation, principal component analysis) statistical strategies identified spatially discriminative risk-associated MALDI-based peptide signatures. The AHNAK nucleoprotein and collapsin response mediator protein 1 (CRMP1) were identified as proteins associated with these peptide signatures, and their differential expression in the neuroblastomas of divergent risk was immunohistochemically validated. This proof-of-concept study demonstrates that MALDI-MSI combined with univariate and multivariate analysis strategies can identify spatially discriminative risk-associated peptide signatures in neuroblastoma tissues. These results suggest a promising new analytical strategy improving risk classification and providing new biological insights into neuroblastoma intratumor heterogeneity.

Keywords: MALDI-MSI; intratumor heterogeneity; neuroblastoma; peptide signatures; risk assessment.