Changes in N-linked glycan structures are related to the initiation and progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), one of the most common fatal cancers worldwide. In this study, we describe a simple and an efficient strategy for the selective identification and quantitation of N-linked glycoproteins that does not require extensive enrichment steps prior to MS/MS analysis. With this approach, N-linked glycoprotein differences between the plasma of healthy and HCC patients were selectively quantified after iTRAQ labeling. We identified a total of 14 N-linked glycopeptides with higher expression in HCC patient plasma than in healthy controls (≥1.5 fold). Additionally, we characterized alterations in the glycan structures of vitronectin (Asn-169, 242) and antithrombin III (Asn-225) that were identified in HCC patient plasma. The intact glycopeptides with native glycan structures were also elevated in HCC tumor tissue. Taken together, these data support the utility of our approach for high throughput global profiling and quantification of the N-linked glycopeptides to identify disease biomarkers.
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