During the past few years, proteomics has been extensively applied to various fields of medicine including nephrology. Current applications of renal and urinary proteomics are to better understand renal physiology, to explore the complexity of disease mechanisms, and to identify novel biomarkers and new therapeutic targets. This review provides some examples and perspectives of how proteomics can be applied to nephrology and how experimental data can be linked to physiology, functional significance and clinical applications. In some instances, proteomic analysis can be utilized to generate a new hypothesis from a set of candidates that are obtained from expression studies. The new hypothesis can then be addressed rapidly by conventional molecular biology methods, as demonstrated by identification of an altered renal elastin-elastase system in diabetic nephropathy and alterations in the renal kallikrein-kallistatin pathway in hypoxia-induced hypertension. The strengths and limitations of proteomics in renal research are summarized. Optimization of analytical protocols is required to overcome current limitations. Applications of proteomics to nephrology will then be more fruitful and successful.