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Disease Markers
Volume 22, Issue 1-2, Pages 3-26

Protein Analysis in Human Cerebrospinal Fluid: Physiological Aspects, Current Progress and Future Challenges

Andreas F. Hühmer,1 Roger G. Biringer,1 Heidi Amato,2 Alfred N. Fonteh,2 and Michael G. Harrington2

1Proteomics, Finnigan Mass Spectrometry, Thermo Electron, San Jose, CA 95134, USA
2Molecular Neurology Program, Huntington Medical Research Institutes, Pasadena, CA 91101, USA

Received 11 November 2005; Accepted 11 November 2005

Copyright © 2006 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The introduction of lumbar puncture into clinical medicine over 100 years ago marks the beginning of the study of central nervous system diseases using the human cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Ever since, CSF has been analyzed extensively to elucidate the physiological and biochemical bases of neurological disease. The proximity of CSF to the brain makes it a good target for studying the pathophysiology of brain functions, but the barrier function of the CSF also impedes its diagnostic value. Today, measurements to determine alterations in the composition of CSF are central in the differential diagnosis of specific diseases of the central nervous system (CNS). In particular, the analysis of the CSF protein composition provides crucial information in the diagnosis of CNS diseases. This enables the assessment of the physiology of the blood-CSF barrier and of the immunology of intrathecial responses. Besides those routine measurements, protein compositional studies of CSF have been extended recently to many other proteins in the expectation that comprehensive analysis of lower abundance CSF proteins will lead to the discovery of new disease markers. Disease marker discovery by molecular profiling of the CSF tissue has the enormous potential of providing many new disease relevant molecules. New developments in protein profiling techniques hold promise for the discovery and validation of relevant disease markers. In this review, we summarize the current efforts and progress in CSF protein profiling measurements using conventional and current protein analysis tools. We also discuss necessary development in methodology in order to have the highest impact on the study of the molecular composition of CSF proteins.