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Promise and Progress - World's First Protein Catalog

Promise & Progress - A Spectrum of Achievements

World's First Protein Catalog

Date: January 15, 2015


Nature, May 29, 2014

An international team of researchers created a catalog of all of the proteins in the human body.  The project was led by researchers at The Johns Hopkins University and the Institute of Bioinformatics in Bangalore, India.  It is expected to be an important resource for biological research and medical diagnostics. 

“You can think of the human body as a huge library where each protein is a book,” says Akhilesh Pandey, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine and the Kimmel Cancer Center. “The difficulty is that we don’t have a comprehensive catalog that gives us the titles of the available books and where to find them.  We think we now have a good first draft of that catalog.”

So far, Pandey and team used 30 different human tissues to catalog proteins encoded by 17,294 genes, which is about 84 percent of all of the human genes predicted to encode proteins.  Among them were 193 novel proteins from unexpected regions of the genome thought not to code for proteins.  This finding suggests that the human genome is more complex than previously thought.  “The fact that 193 of the proteins came from DNA sequences predicted to be noncoding means that we don’t fully understand how cells read DNA, because clearly those sequences do code for proteins,” says Pandey.

Pandey says the complex and diverse structure and function of proteins makes their study far more technically challenging than the study of genes. Therefore, most protein studies to date have not been comprehensive and were done in the context of specific diseases.

“By generating a comprehensive human protein dataset, we have made it easier for other researchers to identify the proteins in their experiments,” says Pandey.  “We believe our data will become the gold standard in the field.”  He says that the human proteome is so extensive and complex that the catalog will likely never be fully complete, but this work provides a solid foundation for others to build upon.

The research was funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (U54 GM103520, P41 GM103504), the National Cancer Institute (U24 CA160036), the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (HHSN268201000032C), the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance.

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