THE APPLICATION OF PROTEOMICS TO FETAL AND MATERNAL MEDICINE
Proteomics is a new field of research. It has developed rapidly in the last five years and is turning more and more into a mature science with relevance to the clinic. The recent elucidation of the human genome sequence has provided a wealth of useful information but does not provide information on diseases caused by changes at the protein level. Proteomics includes the characterisation and functional analysis of all proteins that are expressed by the genome at a certain moment, under certain conditions. Since expression levels of many proteins strongly depend on complex, but well-balanced regulatory systems, the proteome, unlike the genome, is highly dynamic. This variation depends on the biological function of a cell, but also on signals from its environment. In (bio)medical research it has become increasingly apparent that cellular processes, in particular in disease, are determined by multiple proteins. Hence it is important not to focus on one single gene product (one protein), but to study the complete set of gene products (the proteome). In this way the multi-factorial relations underlying certain diseases may be unravelled potentially identifying therapeutical targets. For many diseases characterisation of the functional proteome is crucial for elucidating alterations in protein expression and modifications. When proteins undergo non-genetically determined alterations such as alternative splicing, or post-translational modifications, e.g. phosphorylation or glycosylation, it may effect their function. Although abnormalities in splicing or post-translational modifications can cause a disease process, they can also be a consequence. An example is that patients with diabetes have a high blood glucose which glycosylates hundreds or even thousands of proteins, including HbA1c which is used to monitor diabetic control.
c1 Address for correspondence: NCJ de Wit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Gibbet Hill Road, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom.