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8 June 2017
Showing location of proteins in cells opens a new chapter in human biology

Photo: SciLifeLab

The Human Protein Atlas´ Cell Atlas is an open-access interactive database with unparalleled high-resolution images. It visualizes for the first time the location of over 12,000 proteins in cells – opening the way to “spatial proteomics”, an exciting new discipline predicted to lead to a fundamental increase in our understanding of human health and disease.

After the genome projects that has characterized the number of human protein-coding genes, the next step is to elucidate the function of these proteins. Being able to show the location of the human proteins in time and space with a subcellular resolution is an essential first step towards novel insights into protein function.

The Cell Atlas, part of the Swedish-based Human Protein Atlas initiative, displays high resolution, multicolour images of immunofluorescent stained cells. With more than 12,000 human proteins mapped to 30 different cellular structures, the Cell Atlas provides spatial information on protein expression patterns on a fine subcellular level. The analysis reveals a surprisingly complex cellular architecture with over half of all proteins localized to multiple compartments and a significant portion exhibits variation in expression at a single cell level.

In particular, we expect the Cell Atlas to play a key role in the exciting new area of spatial proteomics. In order to expand our understanding of the workings of human cells from a holistic point of view, in particular in the context of health and disease, detailed knowledge about the underlying molecular system is needed.

Reference: A subcellular map of the human proteome

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