Proteomics is a new field of study that seeks to describe which proteins are expressed in a cell, when they are expressed, what consequences result from their expression, and how they fit into biochemical pathways. The first step in the study of proteomics is to define the language of protein structure. The field of proteomics promises to bring a complex understanding to the role of proteins in living cells. see also Cell, Eukaryotic; Chaperones; Genetic Code; Hemoglobinopathies; Immune System Genetics; Mutation; Nucleases; Proteomics.

Paul K. Small


Fairbanks, Daniel, J., and W. Ralph Anderson. Genetics: The Continuity of Life. Pacific

Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1999. Lodish, Harvey, et al. Molecular Cell Biology, 4th ed. New York: W. H. Freeman, 2000. Sadava, David E. Cell Biology: Organelle Structure and Function. Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1993.

Stryer, Lubert. Biochemistry, 3rd ed. New York: W. H. Freeman, 1988.


Proteomics is the science of studying the multitude of proteomes found in living organisms. A proteome is the entire collection of proteins expressed by a genome or in a tissue. The contents of a proteome can differ in various tissue types, and it can change as a result of aging, disease, drug treatment, or environmental effects.

This is contrary to the concept of a genome, which is an organism's complete collection of DNA. A genome's composition remains more or less constant from tissue to tissue, except for mutations and polymorphisms that can occur.

The word "proteome" was first coined in late 1994. By 1997 there were a number of research conferences focusing on proteomics.

According to the first draft of the human genome, based on the work by the Human Genome Project and by Celera Inc., there are only between thirty thousand and seventy thousand genes in the human genome, many fewer than had been estimated previously. However, as of 2002 there were still groups that believed that there are at least 120,000 genes. Regardless of which of these estimates proves more accurate, the number of potential proteins in the human proteome is quite large. Although the first draft of the human genome reduced the estimates for the total number of human genes, it also predicted a greater amount of alternative splicing of genes, and therefore more distinct protein products per gene, than had been anticipated.

At its simplest level, proteomics is the study of protein expression in a proteome, or trying to understand the relative levels (amounts) of each protein within the mixture. Proteomics attempts to characterize proteins, compare variations in their expression levels in normal and disease states, study their interactions with other proteins, and identify their functional roles.

Unlike the traditional approach of studying individual proteins one at a time, proteomics uses an automated, high-throughput approach. High-throughput refers to the number of items (in this case, proteins) that can be analyzed or studied per unit of time. New technologies and substantial bioin-formatics tools are required to compare entire proteomes. Expansion of the field of proteomics into the realm of "big science" (meaning many dollars invested by a large number of companies and universities) is several years behind the expansion of genomics. This is primarily because proteins are more difficult to work with in a laboratory setting than are nucleic acids such as DNA.

The development of protein analysis technologies is more difficult than the development of DNA analysis technologies for three reasons. First, the basic alphabet for encoding proteins consists of twenty amino acids, whereas there are only four different nucleotides, the alphabet of DNA. Second, the messenger RNA (mRNA) for some genes can be differentially spliced, meaning that multiple messages can be made from a single gene, resulting in multiple, distinct protein products. Finally, many proteins are modified once they have been synthesized. This is known as post-translational modification. There are a number of types of post-translational modifications, such as the addition of sugar, phosphate, sulfate, lipid, acetyl, or methyl groups.

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