Proteomics is a large-scale study of proteins, aiming at the description and characterization of all expressed proteins in biological systems. The expressed proteins are typically highly complex and large in abundance range. To fulfill high accuracy and sensitivity of proteome analysis, the hybrid platforms of multidimensional (MD) separations and mass spectrometry have provided the most powerful solution. Multidimensional separations provide enhanced peak capacity and reduce sample complexity, which enables mass spectrometry to analyze more proteins with high sensitivity. Although two-dimensional (2D) separations have been widely used since the early period of proteomics, three-dimensional (3D) separation was barely used by low reproducibility of separation, increased analysis time in mass spectrometry. With developments of novel microscale techniques such as nano-UPLC and improvements of mass spectrometry, the 3D separation becomes a reliable and practical selection. This review summarizes existing offline and online 3D-LC platforms developed for proteomics and their applications. In detail, setups and implementation of those systems as well as their advances are outlined. The performance of those platforms is also discussed and compared with the state-of-the-art 2D-LC. In addition, we provide some perspectives on the future developments and applications of 3D-LC in proteomics.
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