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Mol Cell Proteomics. 2008 Oct;7(10):1925-51. doi: 10.1074/mcp.R800012-MCP200. Epub 2008 Jul 2.

Metadegradomics: toward in vivo quantitative degradomics of proteolytic post-translational modifications of the cancer proteome.

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  • 1Centre for Blood Research, 4.401 Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia, 2350 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada.


Post-translational modifications enable extra layers of control of the proteome, and perhaps the most important is proteolysis, a major irreversible modification affecting every protein. The intersection of the protease web with a proteome sculpts that proteome, dynamically modifying its state and function. Protease expression is distorted in cancer, so perturbing signaling pathways and the secretome of the tumor and reactive stromal cells. Indeed many cancer biomarkers are stable proteolytic fragments. It is crucial to determine which proteases contribute to the pathology versus their roles in homeostasis and in mitigating cancer. Thus the full substrate repertoire of a protease, termed the substrate degradome, must be deciphered to define protease function and to identify drug targets. Degradomics has been used to identify many substrates of matrix metalloproteinases that are important proteases in cancer. Here we review recent degradomics technologies that allow for the broadly applicable identification and quantification of proteases (the protease degradome) and their activity state, substrates, and interactors. Quantitative proteomics using stable isotope labeling, such as ICAT, isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantification (iTRAQ), and stable isotope labeling by amino acids in cell culture (SILAC), can reveal protease substrates by taking advantage of the natural compartmentalization of membrane proteins that are shed into the extracellular space. Identifying the actual cleavage sites in a complex proteome relies on positional proteomics and utilizes selection strategies to enrich for protease-generated neo-N termini of proteins. In so doing, important functional information is generated. Finally protease substrates and interactors can be identified by interactomics based on affinity purification of protease complexes using exosite scanning and inactive catalytic domain capture strategies followed by mass spectrometry analysis. At the global level, the N terminome analysis of whole communities of proteases in tissues and organs in vivo provides a full scale understanding of the protease web and the web-sculpted proteome, so defining metadegradomics.

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