Alexander Haragan 1 , Daniel C. Liebler 2 , Dimple M. Das 3 , Michael D. Soper 3 , Ryan D. Morrison 2 , Robbert J.C. Slebos 4 , Bradley L. Ackermann 3 , Jeff A. Fill 3 , Andrew E. Schade 3 , John R. Gosney 1 , Aaron M. Gruver 1 , 3 , *
02 January 2020
Immunohistochemistry (IHC) using formalin-fixed, paraffin embedded (FFPE) tissue is limited by epitope masking, post-translational modification and immunoreactivity loss that occurs in stored tissue by poorly characterized mechanisms. Conformational epitopes recognized by many programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) IHC assays are particularly susceptible to degradation and provide an ideal model for understanding signal loss in stored FFPE tissue. Here we assessed 1,206 tissue sections to evaluate environmental factors impacting immunoreactivity loss. PD-L1 IHC using 4 antibodies (22C3, 28-8, E1L3N, SP142), raised against intracellular and extracellular epitopes, was assessed in stored FFPE tissue alongside quantitative mass spectrometry (MS). Global proteome analyses were used to assess proteome-wide oxidation across an inventory of 3,041 protein groups (24,737 distinct peptides). PD-L1 quantitation correlated well with IHC expression on unaged sections (R 2=0.744; P<0.001), with MS demonstrating no loss of PD-L1 protein, even in sections with significant signal loss by IHC impacting diagnostic category. Clones 22C3 and 28-8 were most susceptible to signal loss, with E1L3N demonstrating the most robust signal (56%, 58% and 33% reduction respectively; p<0.05). Increased humidity and temperature resulted in significant acceleration of immunoreactivity loss, which was mitigated by storage with desiccant. MS demonstrated only modest oxidation of 274 methionine-containing peptides and aligned with IHC results suggesting peptide oxidation is not a major factor. These data imply immunoreactivity loss driven by humidity and temperature results in structural distortion of epitopes rendering them unsuitable for antibody binding following epitope retrieval. Limitations of IHC biomarker analysis from stored tissue sections may be mitigated by cost-effective use of desiccant when appropriate. In some scenarios, complementary MS is a preferred approach for retrospective analyses of archival FFPE tissue collections.