Completing the ~20,000 proteins that make us human

25 January 2017

  • The newly released MissingProteinPedia database collates information about proteins in unprecedented ways, allowing Human Proteome Project scientists to gain a deeper understanding of how our proteins work together to make every human an individual.
  • While about 20,000 genes code for proteins in the human body, the new database is aiding in the identification of 2,949 “missing” human proteins that are still waiting in the wings and are yet to be proven to exist by high fidelity measurements
  • The database, made by scientists at Macquarie, will be a powerful tool in helping all researchers pinpoint every protein found in the human body and how these interact, with potential repercussions for better understanding many diseases

Much remains to be understood about how proteins in the human body works in unison; however a newly developed resource is giving scientists a more complete picture of how the proteome makes us uniquely human. MissingProteinPedia, a database developed by a collaborative research group lead by scientists at Macquarie University, could not only help researchers learn more about the location and use – termed ‘expression’ – of specific proteins in the body but also how they interact to make us human. It will also help to pin down those proteins which are still ‘in the shadows’, with implications for several diseases.

“While we know a lot about individual proteins, the larger picture of how these proteins work together to make an individual person is a difficult concept to explore. Although we are developing new technologies to test when, where, why and how proteins are expressed, we still need some way of tying all the biological information together so that we get a clearer picture of how proteins work together to turn us into an individual human being,” explained Professor Mark Baker, lead author of the missing protein study.

“Our team developed MissingProteinPedia to gather all the scattered and incomplete information about what the Human Proteome Project calls missing proteins. This includes the 2,949 proteins that, despite rigorous testing, are still ‘in the shadows’ and haven’t yet been proven to exist,” he added.

The tool accelerates the discovery of many missing proteins, particularly those in elusive protein families, with potentially vast consequences for human disease.

“In order to understand how a disease progresses we need a detailed picture of how all proteins work in a healthy individual, so that we can understand what triggers the development of diseases,” explained senior author Professor Shoba Ranganathan.

MissingProteinPedia has uncovered substantial evidence for many hard-to-detect proteins for which small amounts of information have taken years to gather. The very fact that we have come so far in such a short time bodes well for our understanding of complex human diseases such as cancer,” she added.

The researchers will make the database a community-driven, citizen-science project where everyone can help in the discovery of human missing proteins and their role in health and disease.

Baker, Mark S; Ahn, Seong Beom; Mohamedali, Abidali; Islam, Mohammad T; Cantor, David; Verhaert, Peter D; Fanayan Susan; Sharma, Samridhi; Nice, Edouard C; Connor, Mark and Ranganathan, Shoba. Accelerating the Search for the Missing Proteins in the Human Proteome. Nature Communications. 24 January 2017, DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS14271

Filed under: Featured Health & medicine Research Science & nature