Previous work has shown that inhibition of abundant myeloid azurophil granule-associated serine proteases (ELANE [neutrophil elastase], PRTN3 [protease 3], and CTSG [Cathepsin G]) is required to stabilize some proteins in myeloid cells. We therefore hypothesized that effective inhibition of these proteases may be necessary for quantitative proteomic analysis of samples containing myeloid cells. To test this hypothesis, we thawed viably preserved acute myeloid leukemia cells from cryovials in the presence or the absence of diisopropyl fluorophosphate (DFP), a cell-permeable and irreversible serine protease inhibitor. Global proteomic analysis was performed, using label-free and isobaric peptide-labeling quantitation. The presence of DFP resulted in an increase of tryptic peptides (14–57%) and proteins (9–31%). In the absence of DFP, 11 to 31% of peptide intensity came from nontryptic peptides; 52 to 75% had cleavage specificity consistent with activities of ELANE–PRTN3. Treatment with DFP reduced the intensity of nontryptic peptides to 4-8% of the total. ELANE inhibition was 95%, based on diisopropyl phosphate modification of active site serine residue. Overall, the relative abundance of 20% of proteins was significantly altered by DFP treatment. These results suggest that active myeloid serine proteases, released during sample processing, can skew quantitative proteomic measurements. Finally, significant ELANE activity was also detected in Clinical Proteomics Tumor Analysis Consortium datasets of solid tumors (many of which have known myeloid infiltration). In the pancreatic cancer dataset, the median percentage of nontryptic intensity detected across patient samples was 34%, with many patient samples having more than half of their detected peptide intensity from nontryptic cleavage events consistent with ELANE-PRTN3 cleavage specificity. Our study suggests that in vitro cleavage of proteins by myeloid serine proteases may be relevant for proteomic studies of any tumor that contains infiltrating myeloid cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100716
JournalMolecular and Cellular Proteomics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


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