Brazil: The Country of Proteomics


  • Daniel Martins-de-Souza

    1. Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany
    2. Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU), Munich, Germany
    3. Lab. de Neurociências (LIM-27), Inst. de Psiquaitria, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Sao Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
    4. Lab de Proteômica, Depto Bioquímica, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas, Brazil
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Brazil's main label is “the country of football”. Pelé used to be the most well known Brazilian citzen, together with Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho more recently. Brazil is also known as “the country of Carnaval”, a huge annual festivity which happens all over the country, broadcasted to the whole world, promoting the merging of all social classes together in a big 4,5 days party. Samba is also a Brazilian trademark, which inspired musicians like Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes for creating “Bossa Nova”.

Fortunately, when we Brazilians travel around the world nowadays, we no longer hear only the rhyme “Brazil is Pelé, carnaval, samba and football”. We currently hear people saying proudly that they know that the capital of Brazil is Brasilia and not Rio de Janeiro. They know our former president Lula and even the current president Dilma Rousseff. I often hear non-Brazilians discussing about the Amazon in a cultural and political depth that not even the Brazilians know. The world has heard a lot recently about Brazil, when the economical crises took over all markets, but not the Brazilian. It is currently one of the safest economies to invest. Consequently, investments in science, although still not ideal, have never been better.

Although the basic education in Brazil is still a depreciated matter, the high education has evolved significantly in the last years. The 2011 QS World University Rankings ranked University of São Paulo (USP) as the best South American university and to Times Higher Education World University Rankings's, USP is even the best Ibero-American institution. Brazil produces ten times more PhDs than two decades ago [1] and the number of Brazilian papers in indexed, peer-reviewed journals more than doubled in 10 years. According to Thomson Reuters, Brazil has overcome recently Netherlands, Israel, and Switzerland in number of scientific publications, ranking as the 13th country in the world [2]. Job opportunities for scientists in Brazil have been announced also in English not only for attracting foreigner and knowledgeable scientists, but also because these have been more interested in working in Brazil considering the excellent opportunities.

Opportunities have also been very optimistic proteomic-wise. The wide range of themes being explored in Brazil using proteomics is comparable to our natural diversity and mixed ethnicity. Brazilian laboratories – although mostly concentrated in the Southeast and South regions of Brazil – have been fully equipped for proteomic proposes, thanks to the Federal and also State funding agencies.

Among so many others, some of the following events have provided grounds for the establishment of Proteomics in Brazil. The first steps were given back to the 1980s by protein chemists and mass spectrometrists in parallel. The first group composed by Professors as Lauro Morhy (University of Brasilia, UnB), Gilberto B. Domont (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, UFRJ), Lewis J. Greene (USP), Benedito de Oliveira, Sergio Marangoni and José Camillo Novello from the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), and Mario S. Palma (São Paulo State University, UNESP). The second group mainly headed by Professors Marcos N. Eberlin (UNICAMP) – current president of the International Mass Spectrometry Foundation (IMSF) – and José Manoel Riveiros (USP). In 1992, Prof. Marcelo Valle de Sousa (UnB) heard for the first time about peptide mass fingerprinting from Prof. Peter Roepstorff in a conference and soon after, they were already collaborating. This helped in the set up of the first Brazilian Proteomics Laboratory headed by Prof Sousa and Carlos A. Ricart.

At the end of the 1990s, a generation of proteomic scientists such as Marcus B. Smolka, Fabio Gozzo and Vitor M. Faça, after have learnt from Professors Ruedi Aebersold, (ETH Zurich), R. Graham Cooks (Purdue University) and Sam Hanash (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), launched proteomic pipelines in different parts of the country. These proteomic headquarters in UnB, UNICAMP and USP, mostly based initially on 2DE, MALDI-TOF and even Edman degradation – and later also equipped with ESI-MS/MS, MALDI-MS/MS, ion mobility MS – contributed for the formation of a great number of proteomic scientists. In 2000, Prof. Gilberto B. Domont (UFRJ) proposed the creation of the Rio de Janeiro Proteomics Network together with Drs. Jonas Perales, Ana Gisele CN Ferreira and Richard H Valente (Fiocruz Foundation) and Professors Russolina Zingalli and Paulo Bisch (UFRJ), establishing a powerful center for proteomics investigation in Brazil. In 2003, Prof. Domont inaugurated at the Annual Meeting of the Brazilian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SBBq) a “Proteomics Symposium” which has become an annual tradition of the Conference and has moved and aroused interest of many students and scientists towards proteomics.

This is just a short overview of events from the innumerous steps taken by so many protein chemists, biochemists and mass spectrometrists that have driven Brazilian scientists to proteomics in the last decade. A new generation of specialists in bioinformatics and mass spectrometry such as Drs. Paulo C. Carvalho, Magno Junqueira, and Lyris Godoy, returned to Brazil to apply the knowledge acquired with Professors John R. Yates III, Andrej Shevchenko and Matthias Mann. Recently, we proudly watched the Brazilian Mass Spectrometry Society (BrMASS), launched in 2005, to hold a Congress with about 1,800 participants, very many of them interested in Proteomics. In addition, now that a critical mass has been attained, we are about to see the inauguration of Brazilian Proteomics Society by the end of 2012.

I hereby present proudly this special issue entitled “Proteomics in Brazil”, intending to show the diversity of proteomics studies in that country and also how its strength has increased every day. Given its achievements and future prospects, I hope to see Brazil receiving one more label, but now from the scientific community as “the country of proteomics”.


Daniel Martins-de-Souza