We analysed the effects of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) on proliferation and changes in the global proteome of the nullipotent human embryonal carcinoma cell line 2102Ep and the pluripotent cell line NTERA2 cl.D1 (NT2). Differentially expressed proteins were assessed by 2D-PAGE and mass spectrometry, followed by verification and analysis of protein modifications of proteins of the retinoid pathway. We established a proteome map of the germ cell tumor (GCT) cell line NT2 showing neuronal differentiation under ATRA treatment for 7 days. Using bioinformatic analyses, we identified functional groups of altered proteins and potentially involved pathways, of which changes to the organization of the cytoskeleton and anti-apoptotic effects were the most prominent. Changes observed in the expression of factors involved in the retinoid pathway under ATRA, namely an upregulation of CRBP and CRABP2, were also reflected in GCT tissues of different histologies, providing further insight into factors involved in the differentiation of these pluripotent tumors. Biological significance Treatment of NT2 germ cell tumor cells with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) is a model to investigate differentiation. We analysed differentially expressed proteins by 2D-PAGE and mass spectrometry and provide a proteome map of NT2 cells under 7 days of ATRA. By bioinformatic analyses, functional groups of proteins and involved pathways like changes to the cytoskeleton and anti-apoptotic effects were identified. Factors involved in the retinoid pathway, in particular upregulation of CRBP, CRABP1 and CRABP2, also showed differential expression in tumors with different histological subtypes, which provides insight into gene regulation under induced and spontaneous differentiation in germ cell tumors. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.