System approaches to elucidate ecosystem functioning constitute an emerging area of research within microbial ecology. Such approaches aim at investigating all levels of biological information (DNA, RNA, proteins and metabolites) to capture the functional interactions occurring in a given ecosystem and track down characteristics that could not be accessed by the study of isolated components. In this context, the study of the proteins collectively expressed by all the microorganisms present within an ecosystem (metaproteomics) is not only crucial but can also provide insights into microbial functionality. Overall, the success of metaproteomics is closely linked to metagenomics, and with the exponential increase in the availability of metagenome sequences, this field of research is starting to experience generation of an overwhelming amount of data, which requires systematic analysis. Metaproteomics has been employed in very diverse environments, and this review discusses the recent advances achieved in the context of human biology, soil, marine and freshwater environments as well as natural and bioengineered systems.
© 2011 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.