The relatively small universe of human genes could grow by up to one-third, if a concerted effort to search for new genes that encode short proteins is successful. Many known miniproteins have already been shown to play key roles in cellular metabolism and disease, so the international effort to catalog new ones and determine their functions, announced last week in Nature Biotechnology, could shed light on a vast array of biochemical processes and provide targets for novel medicines.
“The microproteome is a potential gold mine of unexplored biology,” says Eric Olson, a molecular biologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who is not involved with the new consortium. Anne O’Donnell-Luria, an expert in the genetics of rare diseases at Boston Children’s Hospital, adds that the expanded catalog could be a rich source of clues to genetic links to disease. “Everyone will be able to use this data