Epigenetic aberrations have been recognized as important contributors to cancer onset and development, and increasing evidence suggests that linker histone H1 variants may serve as biomarkers useful for patient stratification, as well as play an important role as drivers in cancer. Although traditionally histone H1 levels have been studied using antibody-based methods and RNA expression, these approaches suffer from limitations. Mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics represents the ideal tool to accurately quantify relative changes in protein abundance within complex samples. In this study, we used a label-free quantification approach to simultaneously analyze all somatic histone H1 variants in clinical samples and verified its applicability to laser micro-dissected tissue areas containing as low as 1000 cells. We then applied it to breast cancer patient samples, identifying differences in linker histone variants patters in primary triple-negative breast tumors with and without relapse after chemotherapy. This study highlights how label-free quantitation by MS is a valuable option to accurately quantitate histone H1 levels in different types of clinical samples, including very low-abundance patient tissues.
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