Protein Fingerprinting *

Areas of Science Biotechnology
Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites A basic understanding of molecular biology and access to a research laboratory with gel electrophoresis equipment is required for this project.
Material Availability The kit required for this project can only be purchased through a school or educational business.
Cost Very High (over $150)
Safety Adult supervision in the laboratory facility is required.
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


First came the Human Genome Project and now (drum roll please) the Human Proteome Project. Confused? Not surprising as the Human Proteome Project has not received the kind of press that the Human Genome Project did. Nonetheless it is a major, and potentially important, scientific undertaking. Just as the genome is the complete set of an organism's DNA, the proteome is all the proteins expressed in an organism. Why study the proteome? It is because proteins are the work horses of biological systems, performing all of the biochemical functions necessary to maintain cellular metabolism, architecture, and growth. Different tissues are made up of certain cell types that each have a unique population of proteins that make up the cellular environment. Because of this, different cell types have a unique protein profile, or fingerprint. That profile may change over time, for example babies and elderly adults may have different brain proteomes, or due to other conditions like diseases. Diseases, like cancer, can cause major changes in the protein profile. This is exactly the point of the Human Proteome Project, once you know what is normal versus abnormal you can do a better job of understanding the normal state, and diagnosing (and even treating) disease states. Watch the video to see how one of the participants in the Human Proteome Project, Dr. Joshua LaBaer, Director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State, highlights the role of proteomics.

In this video Dr. Joshua LaBaer explains why he feels studying proteins is vitally important. (Used by permission from Thermo Fisher Scientific, the copyright owner.)

Want to try your own hand at proteomics? If so, the Fish Protein Fingerprinting Kit from Carolina Biological is a good starting place. With this kit you can purify protein extract from different fish samples provided, run the protein out on a gel (as shown in Figure 1), and compare the banding patterns between your samples. Can you identify similarities and differences in these organisms' protein profiles, or fingerprints? Which species have the most similar muscle protein profile? Compare the fish protein profiles against an evolutionary tree. Do the data agree? What explanations can you suggest? You can also try this kit on muscle from other species, which you can buy at the grocery store. Use lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken, or lamb. Another idea is to compare the protein profiles of different parts of the body, like chicken muscle, chicken heart, chicken liver, egg white. Do the different cell types have similar or different protein profiles? A further idea would be to use the kit to investigate if the protein profile of a tissue source changes after being treated with some type of chemical or biochemical compound.

banding patterns of muscle proteins from different fish species on a gel
Figure 1. Using gel electrophoresis, you can compare the banding patterns of muscle proteins from different fish species on a gel, like the one shown here. (Photo courtesy of Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc.)

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Last edit date: 2018-10-17

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