Precise Quantitation of PTEN by Immuno-MRM: A Tool to Resolve the Breast Cancer Biomarker Controversy

Sahar Ibrahim, Cathy Lan, Catherine Chabot, Georgia Mitsa, Marguerite Buchanan, Adriana Aguilar-Mahecha, Mounib Elchebly, Oliver Poetz, Alan Spatz, Mark Basik, Gerald Batist, René P. Zahedi, Christoph H. Borchers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The tumor suppressor PTEN is the main negative regulator of PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling and is commonly found downregulated in breast cancer (BC). Conflicting data from conventional immunoassays such as immunohistochemistry (IHC) has sparked controversy about PTEN's role as a prognostic and predictive biomarker in BC, which can be largely attributed to the lack of specificity, sensitivity, and interlaboratory standardization. Here, we present a fully standardized, highly sensitive, robust microflow immuno-MRM (iMRM) assay that enables precise quantitation of PTEN concentrations in cells and fresh frozen (FF) and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues, down to 0.1 fmol/10 μg of extracted protein, with high interday and intraday precision (CV 6.3%). PTEN protein levels in BC PDX samples that were determined by iMRM correlate well with semiquantitative IHC and WB data. iMRM, however, allowed the precise quantitation of PTEN - even in samples that were deemed to be PTEN negative by IHC or western blot (WB) - while requiring substantially less tumor tissue than WB. This is particularly relevant because the extent of PTEN downregulation in tumors has been shown to correlate with severity. Our standardized and robust workflow includes an 11 min microflow LC-MRM analysis on a triple-quadrupole MS and thus provides a much needed tool for the study of PTEN as a potential biomarker for BC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10816-10824
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2021


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