As the physical properties and functionality of dipeptides differ from those of amino acids, they have attracted attention in metabolomics; however, their functions in vivo have not been clarified in detail. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer, and its major cause is chronic hepatitis. This study was conducted to explore tumor-specific dipeptide characteristics by performing comprehensive dipeptide analysis in the tumor and surrounding nontumor tissue of patients with HCC. Dipeptides were analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry and capillary electrophoresis tandem mass spectrometry. Principal component analysis using 236 detected dipeptides showed differences in the dipeptide profiles between nontumor and tumor tissues; however, no clear difference was observed in etiological comparison. In addition, the N-and C-terminal amino acid compositions of the detected dipeptides significantly differed, suggesting the substrate specificity of enzyme proteins, such as peptidase. Furthermore, hepatitis-derived HCC may show a characteristic dipeptide profile even before tumor formation. These results provide insight into HCC pathogenesis and may help identify novel biomarkers for diagnosis.
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