Early diagnosis is essential for improving the prognosis and survival of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This study aims to explore the clinical value of lipoprotein subfractions in the diagnosis of hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related HCC. Lipoprotein subfractions were detected by 1H-NMR spectroscopy, and the pattern-recognition method and binary logistic regression were performed to classify distinct serum profiles and construct prediction models for HCC diagnosis. Differentially expressed proteins associated with lipid metabolism were detected by LC-MS/MS, and the potential prognostic significance of the mRNA expression was evaluated by Kaplan-Meier survival analysis. The diagnostic panel constructed from the serum particle number of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL-1~LDL-6) achieved higher accuracy for the diagnosis of HBV-related HCC and HBV-related benign liver disease (LD) than that constructed from serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) alone in the training set (AUC: 0.850 vs. AUC: 0.831) and validation set (AUC: 0.926 vs. AUC: 0.833). Furthermore, the panel achieved good diagnostic performance in distinguishing AFP-negative HCC from AFP-negative LD (AUC: 0.773). We also found that lipoprotein lipase (LPL) transcript levels showed a significant increase in cancerous tissue and that high expression was significantly positively correlated with the poor prognosis of patients. Our research provides new insight for the development of diagnostic biomarkers for HCC, and abnormal lipid metabolism and LPL-mediated abnormal serum lipoprotein metabolism may be important factors in promoting HCC development.
Keywords: 1H-NMR; LC-MS/MS; cancer biomarkers; hepatocellular carcinoma; lipidomics; lipoprotein lipase; lipoprotein subfractions.