A novel two-dimensional two-column liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) technique is described in this work, where chromatofocusing (CF) has been coupled to nonporous reversed-phase (NPS-RP) HPLC to separate proteins from human breast epithelial whole cell lysates. The liquid fractions from NPS-RP-HPLC are readily amenable to direct on-line analysis using electrospray ionization orthogonal acceleration time-of-flight mass spectrometry (ESI-TOFMS). A key advantage of this technique is that proteins can be ‘peeled off’ in the liquid phase from the CF column according to their isoelectric points ( pI ) in the first chromatographic separation dimension. The NPS-RP-HPLC column further separates these pI -focused fractions based upon protein hydrophobicity as the second chromatographic dimension. The third dimension involves on-line molecular weight determination using ESI-TOFMS. As a result, this method has the potential to be fully automated. In addition, a 2-D protein map of pI versus molecular weight is generated, which is analogous to a 2-D gel image. Thus, this technique may provide a means to study differential expression of proteins from whole cell lysates. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.