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Front Oncol. 2013 Feb 6;3:10. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2013.00010. eCollection 2013.

Single-cell protein secretomic signatures as potential correlates to tumor cell lineage evolution and cell-cell interaction.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Yale University New Haven, CT, USA.


Secreted proteins including cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors represent important functional regulators mediating a range of cellular behavior and cell-cell paracrine/autocrine signaling, e.g., in the immunological system (Rothenberg, 2007), tumor microenvironment (Hanahan and Weinberg, 2011), or stem cell niche (Gnecchi etal., 2008). Detection of these proteins is of great value not only in basic cell biology but also for diagnosis and therapeutic monitoring of human diseases such as cancer. However, due to co-production of multiple effector proteins from a single cell, referred to as polyfunctionality, it is biologically informative to measure a panel of secreted proteins, or secretomic signature, at the level of single cells. Recent evidence further indicates that a genetically identical cell population can give rise to diverse phenotypic differences (Niepel etal., 2009). Non-genetic heterogeneity is also emerging as a potential barrier to accurate monitoring of cellular immunity and effective pharmacological therapies (Cohen etal., 2008; Gascoigne and Taylor, 2008), but can hardly assessed using conventional approaches that do not examine cellular phenotype at the functional level. It is known that cytokines, for example, in the immune system define the effector functions and lineage differentiation of immune cells. In this article, we hypothesize that protein secretion profile may represent a universal measure to identify the definitive correlate in the larger context of cellular functions to dissect cellular heterogeneity and evolutionary lineage relationship in human cancer.


immunomonitoring; intra-tumor heterogeneity; protein secretion profile; single-cell analysis; tumor microenvironment

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