The deciphering of the sequence of the human genome has raised the expectation of unravelling the specific role of each gene in physiology and pathology. High-throughput technologies for gene expression profiling provide the first practical basis for applying this information. In rheumatology, with its many diseases of unknown pathogenesis and puzzling inflammatory aspects, these advances appear to promise a significant advance towards the identification of leading mechanisms of pathology. Expression patterns reflect the complexity of the molecular processes and are expected to provide the molecular basis for specific diagnosis, therapeutic stratification, long-term monitoring and prognostic evaluation. Identification of the molecular networks will help in the discovery of appropriate drug targets, and permit focusing on the most effective and least toxic compounds. Current limitations in screening technologies, experimental strategies and bioinformatic interpretation will shortly be overcome by the rapid development in this field. However, gene expression profiling, by its nature, will not provide biochemical information on functional activities of proteins and might only in part reflect underlying genetic dysfunction. Genomic and proteomic technologies will therefore be complementary in their scientific and clinical application.