Proteomics, the large-scale analysis of proteins, will contribute greatly to our understanding of gene function in the post-genomic era. Proteomics can be divided into three main areas: (1) protein micro-characterization for large-scale identification of proteins and their post-translational modifications; (2) 'differential display' proteomics for comparison of protein levels with potential application in a wide range of diseases; and (3) studies of protein-protein interactions using techniques such as mass spectrometry or the yeast two-hybrid system. Because it is often difficult to predict the function of a protein based on homology to other proteins or even their three-dimensional structure, determination of components of a protein complex or of a cellular structure is central in functional analysis. This aspect of proteomic studies is perhaps the area of greatest promise. After the revolution in molecular biology exemplified by the ease of cloning by DNA methods, proteomics will add to our understanding of the biochemistry of proteins, processes and pathways for years to come.