Owing to the complexity of higher eukaryotic cells, characterization of a complete proteome is likely to be difficult to achieve. However, advantage can be taken of the cell compartmentalization to build organelle proteomes, which can moreover be viewed as specialized tools to study specifically the biology and "physiology" of the target organelle. Within this frame, we report here the construction of the human mitochondrial proteome, using placenta as the source tissue. Protein identification was carried out mainly by peptide mass fingerprinting, but other methods were also used (N-terminal microsequencing, blotting). The optimization steps in two-dimensional (2-D) electrophoresis needed for proteome research are discussed. However, the relative paucity of data concerning mitochondrial proteins is still the major limiting factor in building the corresponding proteome, which should be a useful tool for researchers working on human mitochondria and their deficiencies.