Nutriproteomics: facts, concepts, and perspectives


Nutrition is a basic component of life. Nowadays, human nutrition research focuses amongst others on health-related aspects of food ingredients and extracts, and on analysing the outcomes of specific diets. Usually, food ingredients such as bioactive peptides come in complex matrices. Single compounds, multiple interactions thereof and the underlying food matrix can vary physiological response of the organism. Proteins and peptides derived from food and beverages can cause adverse allergic reactions but are in general required for multiple functions such as growth and homeostatic regulation. Endogenously expressed human proteins and peptides can be used as biomarkers to monitor physiological deregulation and the effects of food consumption. The intestinal microbiome seems to play a fundamental role in establishing and maintaining physiological regulation and in digesting proteins and peptides and other biomolecules derived from food. Notably, the subtle interplay of flavour naturals in food and beverages with olfactory receptors can result in establishing human taste preferences, which again influences overall physiology. This article presents basic approaches and concepts to address scientific questions in nutritional proteomics and discusses potential benefits of proteomics-based methodologies to help advance the field of molecular nutrition research.

Nutrition refers to the process by which a living organism ingests and digests food and uses the nutrients therein for growth, tissue maintenance and all other functions essential to life. Food components interact with our body at molecular, cellular, organ and system level. Nutrients come in complex mixtures, in which the presence and concentration of single compounds as well as their interactions with other compounds and the food matrix influence their bioavailability and bioefficacy. Traditionally, nutrition research mainly concentrated on supplying nutrients of quality to nourish populations and on preventing specific nutrient deficiencies. More recently, it investigates health-related aspects of individual ingredients or of complete diets, in view of health promotion, performance optimisation, disease prevention and risk assessment. This review focuses on proteins and peptides, their role as nutrients and biomarkers and on the technologies developed for their analysis. In the first part of this review, we provide insights into the way proteins are currently characterised and analysed using classical and emerging proteomic approaches. The scope of the second part is to review major applications of proteomics to nutrition, from characterisation of food proteins and peptides, via investigation of health-related food benefits to understanding disease-related mechanisms. Nutritional systems biology is emerging as a viable approach to elucidate the multiple molecular layers involved in information processing in cells, tissues, and organ systems in response to diet. Information about the wide range of cellular and molecular interactions elicited by foods on the brain and cognitive plasticity is crucial for the design of public health initiatives for curtailing the epidemic of metabolic and brain disorders.