Proteomics can be defined as the systematic analysis of proteins for their identity, quantity and function. In contrast to a cell's static genome, the proteome is both complex and dynamic. Proteome analysis is most commonly accomplished by the combination of two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2DE) and mass spectrometry (MS). However, this technique is under scrutiny because of a failure to detect low-abundance proteins from the analysis of whole cell lysates. Alternative approaches integrate a diversity of separation technologies and make use of the tremendous peptide separation and sequencing power provided by MS/MS. When liquid chromatography is combined with tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) and applied to the direct analysis of mixtures, many of the limitations of 2DE for proteome analysis can be overcome. This tutorial addresses current approaches to identify and characterize large numbers of proteins and measure dynamic changes in protein expression directly from complex protein mixtures (total cell lysates). Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.