Although numerous protein biomarkers have been correlated with advanced disease states, no new clinical assays have been developed. Goals often anticipate disease-specific protein changes that exceed values among healthy individuals, a property common to acute phase reactants. This review considers somewhat different approaches. It focuses on intact protein isoform ratios that present a biomarker without change in the total concentration of the protein. These will seldom be detected by peptide level analysis or by most antibody-based assays. For example, application of an inexpensive method to large sample groups resulted in observation of several polymorphisms, including the first structural polymorphism of apolipoprotein C1. Isoform distribution of this protein was altered and was eventually linked to increased obesity. Numerous other protein isoforms included C- and N-terminal proteolysis, changes of glycoisoform ratios and certain types of sulfhydryl oxidation. While many of these gave excellent statistical correlation with advanced disease, clinical utility was not apparent. More important may be that protein isoform ratios were very stable in each individual. Diagnosis by longitudinal analysis of the same individual might increase sensitivity of protein biomarkers by 20-fold or more. Protein changes that exceed the range of values found among healthy individuals may be uncommon.
- Mass spectra