A new study suggests that proteins communicate by a complex network of chemical messages which could lead to the development of new medicines.
Drugs could have a greater effect on cell function by targeting groups of proteins working together, rather than individual proteins.
Results were obtained by studying yeast, which has many corresponding proteins in human cells.
Researchers, including scientists from the University of Edinburgh, used advanced technology to identify hundreds of different proteins, and then used statistical analysis to identify the more important links between them, mapping almost 2000 connections in all.
Scientists expected to find simple links between individual proteins but were surprised to find that proteins were inter-connected in a complex web.
Dr Victor Neduva, of the University of Edinburgh, who took part in the study, said: "Our studies have revealed an intricate network of proteins within cells that is much more complex than we previously thought. This suggests that drugs should be more complex to treat illnesses effectively.
Professor Mike Tyers, who led the study, said: "Medicines could work better if they targeted networks of proteins rather than sole proteins associated with particular illnesses."
The research appears in the journal Science,