Biologists still have no clear idea how many active genes there are coding for proteins in humans and other organisms, even though for some species the genomes have been completely sequenced. This is because many of the genes and their protein products have only been predicted by computer algorithms that are at this time imperfect. The field of proteomics aims to discover all the proteins produced by a given organism. Such a proteome map would bring the possibility of deducing the precise number, and location in the genome, of the genes coding for proteins. This is much more complex than simply mapping the genome from end to end because it involves detecting all proteins even though some are present only in very small amounts, while some are confined to specific organs and/or are only synthesised at certain times or stages of an organisms life.
However a recent workshop supported by the European Science Foundation (ESF) concluded that it is now feasible to map at least nearly the whole proteome (the sum total of all proteins) of an organism. Such an extensive map will be an essential base for the development and eventually the widespread application of a new generation of proteomics technologies that are faster, more sensitive and more reliable than the present methods. These technologies, in turn, thanks to their improved performance could greatly improve understanding of many diseases and lead to new therapies, according to the ESF workshops coordinator Professor Rudolf Aebersold from Institute of Molecular Systems Biology in Switerzland. Most diseases, including cancer and many pathogenic infections, involve disruption to regulatory processes in cells or tissues with associated changes in the abundance of proteins and their interactions, Aebersold pointed out. The idea would be that if we could map out the whole proteome, we could develop a toolbox structure enabling assays (for detecting proteins) to be done faster and more cheaply. It would then be poss
Contact: Rudolf Aebersold
European Science Foundation