PARIS — The first annual meeting of the Human Proteome Organisation in Versailles last week (November 21–24) threw up several burning issues that speakers said must be resolved if the project is to be successful.

Proteomics researchers estimate that the human body contains around one million different protein molecules. Considering there is still no agreement on the number of genes in the human genome — anywhere between 30,000 and 60,000 — it's anyone's guess as to how meaningful that estimate is.

Gene products can be altered in many different ways, for example, by alternative splicing of the gene, by post-translational modifications of the protein, not to mention tweaking by enzymes and non-enzymatic processes in different tissue types. But as estimates go it's good enough to make the point that the proteome poses a far greater challenge than the Human Genome Project (HGP) did 15 years ago.

So most researchers agree...

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