Advances in protein turnover analysis at the global level and biological insights
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The concept of a dynamic state of body constituents, a precursor of the modern term of proteome dynamics, was conceived over a century ago. But, not until recently can we examine the dynamics of individual ‘constituents’ e.g., proteins at a truly global level. The path of advancement in our understanding of protein turnover at the global level is marked by the introduction of some key technological innovations. These methods include the isotopic tracer technique in the 1930s, the two-dimensional gel electrophoresis technique in the 1970s, the sector mass spectrometer that could analyze isotopomers of peptides in the early 1990s, the 2D gel/MALDI-TOF proteomics technology in the late 1990s, the booming liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry proteomics technology in this decade, and the recently emerging protein-tagging approaches that offer single-cell resolution for protein turnover measurements. The long-standing inquiry raised in the 1950s about the existence of a dynamic state in different organisms at different physiological conditions can now be answered with an individual ‘constituent’ resolution on a truly global scale. Now it appears that protein degradation is not necessarily an end to the protein function. Rather, it can be the start of a new function because protein degradation clears the way for the action of other proteins. Protein turnover participates in a multi-layer complex regulatory network and shares equal importance with gene transcription and protein translation. The advances in technologies for protein turnover analysis and the improved understanding of the biological role of protein turnover will likely help to solve some long-standing biomedical problems such as the tuberculosis disease that at the present day still affects one-third of the world population.