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In the post-genomic era, scientists have shifted their research focus from genomic studies to functional proteomics studies. Proteomics is focused on the study of the composition and organization of cellular proteins, protein-protein interactions and their relationship to disease pathogenesis. The study of the interactions between proteins and other biomolecules such as other proteins, nucleic acids and polysaccharides is a key part of proteomics research. Currently, many technologies have been developed for it, and peptide microarrays are one of the key and most promising technologies.
As a high-throughput screening tool, peptide microarrays are new types of biochips that use automated instruments to place hundreds or even thousands of purposely designed peptides at extremely high densities on specially treated carrier matrices (e.g., glass or filter paper) through in situ synthesis techniques. Using such biochips, scientists are able to directly reveal the secrets of the interactions between proteins and other biological macromolecules.
Peptide microarrays, in particular, are gaining prominence as a vital tool for high-throughput screening. They are most commonly applied in epitope mapping, substrate profiling, and probing peptide-ligand interactions. Unlike proteins, peptides may be rapidly synthesized as large, defined library sets which can be installed with orthogonal or directed chemical tags for convenient immobilization on arrays. Peptides are also more stable than proteins on microarrays with variants that can be easily designed, providing a useful means for "mutation scanning", or examining positional effects on function/selectivity. Presenting them on microarrays allows literally thousands of peptides to be evaluated in a single reaction using minimal amounts of samples and reagents. This provides a highly scalable capability that can be exploited, especially in pharmaceutical screening.
Peptide microarrays have been widely used in various fields such as protein interaction studies, screening of drugs, research and development of diagnostic reagents, and detection of various biological and biomarkers.