Mass spectrometric analysis of the low-molecular weight (LMW) range of the serum/plasma proteome is revealing the existence of large numbers of previously unknown peptides and protein fragments predicted to be derived from low-abundance proteins. This raises the question of why such low abundance molecules would be retained at detectable levels in the circulation, instead of being rapidly cleared and excreted. Theoretical models of biomarker production and association with serum carrier proteins have been developed to elucidate the mechanisms governing biomarker half-life in the bloodstream. These models predict that the vast majority of LMW biomarkers exist in association with circulating high molecular mass carrier proteins. Moreover, the total serum/plasma concentration of the biomarker is largely determined by the clearance rate of the carrier protein, not the free-phase biomarker clearance itself. These predictions have been verified experimentally using molecular mass fractionation of human serum before mass spectrometry sequence analysis. These principles have profound implications for biomarker discovery and measurement.