Blokzijl A, Nong R, Darmanis S, Hertz E, Landegren U, Kamali-Moghaddam M
Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1844 (5) 933-939 [2014-05-00; online 2013-08-07]
The ability to detect minute amounts of specific proteins or protein modifications in blood as biomarkers for a plethora of human pathological conditions holds great promise for future medicine. Despite a large number of plausible candidate protein biomarkers published annually, the translation to clinical use is impeded by factors such as the required size of the initial studies, and limitations of the technologies used. The proximity ligation assay (PLA) is a versatile molecular tool that has the potential to address some obstacles, both in validation of biomarkers previously discovered using other techniques, and for future routine clinical diagnostic needs. The enhanced specificity of PLA extends the opportunities for large-scale, high-performance analyses of proteins. Besides advantages in the form of minimal sample consumption and an extended dynamic range, the PLA technique allows flexible assay reconfiguration. The technology can be adapted for detecting protein complexes, proximity between proteins in extracellular vesicles or in circulating tumor cells, and to address multiple post-translational modifications in the same protein molecule. We discuss herein requirements for biomarker validation, and how PLA may play an increasing role in this regard. We describe some recent developments of the technology, including proximity extension assays, the use of recombinant affinity reagents suitable for use in proximity assays, and the potential for single cell proteomics. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Biomarkers: A Proteomic Challenge.