Netherlands Proteomics Centre
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What is proteomics?

What is proteomics?

Proteins make the difference

Once the Human Genome project generated the first complete drafts of the genome sequence, the number of identified genes (30,000 - 35,000) was significantly less than the 100,000 genes expected from earlier calculations. News headlines from these days almost all retained the ‘disappointing’ fact that humans have hardly more genes than an ordinary worm. The secret lies in the proteins that each gene codes for. They make the difference between appearance and performance. Often, they hold the key to being ill or healthy. Proteins are the major functional entities responsible for all biological processes. They might possibly overrate the number of 1,000,000.

The Butterfly-Caterpillar Comparison

The most striking example that illustrates the all-important role of proteins for a living organism, is the difference between a butterfly and its wormlike larva: the caterpillar. They both share exactly the same set of genes, but they are also as different as night and day. The same holds true for the diverse cell types within one organism. Differences in cell function between e.g. skin, eye or liver tissue, are determined by the specific protein networks in these cells, encoded by the same genome.

Imbalance in Protein Profiles Major Cause of Cancer

Often pathological states of cells and tissues do not simply result from damage to the genome, but are caused by imbalances in the protein profile determining cell functions. Cancerous growth for example may be caused by mutations at different points in specific regulatory protein systems designed to regulate normal cellular growth. This limits the impact of DNA analyses in how we explain multi-genic disorders such as cancer, diabetes type II and many psychiatric disorders.

New Age in Human Biology

The sequencing of the human genome and many other genomes has initiated a new age in human biology. This offers unprecedented opportunities to improve human health and to stimulate scientific, industrial and economic activity. Due to historical landmark in science, the emphasis is now rapidly moving towards the biological interpretation of the genome sequence information. This biological interpretation relies heavily on the field of proteomics. It covers the immense tasks of identifying structure, function and interactions of the gene products (the proteins) and their role in biological processes.


Proteomics is the application of evolving technologies to:

  • analyse proteins on a large scale
  • measure protein expression profiles and protein modifications
  • evaluate protein networks related to development, health/disease and other biological processes

Research in this innovative field is the core activity of this project. As is its rapid implementation into biological and biomedical research and applications.

Immense social impact

The conclusion is that the role of proteins is extremely important. And so is research in that field. We need to improve our understanding of biological processes at the molecular (protein) level. Then we will be able to improve drug therapy and obtain better biomarkers for health and disease. And be able to improve the application of proteins in plants, animals, food and nutrition. Once the proteomics tools will be efficient enough, there will be immense social implications of results generated by proteomics-related research into biomedics and biotechnology. Proteins do make the difference, indeed.

High-quality proteomics research

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