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The Proteoform

In correspondence to Nature Methods, Lloyd Smith, Neil Kelleher, and the Consortium for Top Down Proteomics suggest the term "proteoform" to describe all the shapes that a protein can assume. "Given the importance of capturing this protein variation in basic and translational research, and that technologies now exist to reveal it, we point out an ongoing problem in nomenclature regarding what to call it," they write.

Smith and his colleagues add that many of currently used terms are imprecise — 'isoform' actually refers to genetic, not protein, variations, while the phrase 'protein species' cannot "distinguish between proteins originating from different genes and those originating from a single gene."

'Proteoform', they say, will help solve these issues, and they have begun using it in their work. "We find it to be intuitive and readily grasped by readers and audiences. It has an aesthetic appeal, as the simple protein analog of the genetic term 'isoform'," they add.

"It just catches on … it fills a void the rolls right off the tongue at conferences and sits well in the gut while digesting text," Kelleher tells Nature Methods' Methagora blog.