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Am J Pharmacogenomics. 2004;4(6):371-81.

Activity-based protein profiling: applications to biomarker discovery, in vivo imaging and drug discovery.

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Department of Pathology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305-5324, USA.


The genomic revolution has created a wealth of information regarding the fundamental genetic code that defines the inner workings of a cell. However, it has become clear that analyzing genome sequences alone will not lead to new therapies to fight human disease. Rather, an understanding of protein function within the context of complex cellular networks will be required to facilitate the discovery of novel drug targets and, subsequently, new therapies directed against them. The past ten years has seen a dramatic increase in technologies that allow large-scale, systems-based methods for analysis of global biological processes and disease states. In the field of proteomics, several well-established methods persist as a means to resolve and analyze complex mixtures of proteins derived from cells and tissues. However, the resolving power of these methods is often challenged by the diverse and dynamic nature of the proteome. The field of activity-based proteomics, or chemical proteomics, has been established in an attempt to focus proteomic efforts on subsets of physiologically important protein targets. This new approach to proteomics is centered around the use of small molecules termed activity-based probes (ABPs) as a means to tag, enrich, and isolate, distinct sets of proteins based on their enzymatic activity. Chemical probes can be 'tuned' to react with defined enzymatic targets through the use of chemically reactive warhead groups, fused to selective binding elements that control their overall specificity. As a result, ABPs function as highly specific, mechanism-based reagents that provide a direct readout of enzymatic activity within complex proteomes. Modification of protein targets by an ABP facilitates their purification and isolation, thereby eliminating many of the confounding issues of dynamic range in protein abundance. In this review, we outline recent advances in the field of chemical proteomics. Specifically, we highlight how this technology can be applied to advance the fields of biomarker discovery, in vivo imaging, and small molecule screening and drug target discovery.

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