The availability of complete genome sequences necessitates the development of standardized functional assays to analyse the tens of thousands of predicted gene products in high-throughput experimental settings. Such approaches are collectively referred to as ‘functional genomics’. One approach to investigate the properties of a proteome of interest is by systematic analysis of protein–protein interactions. So far, the yeast two-hybrid system is the most commonly used method for large-scale, high-throughput identification of potential protein–protein interactions. Here, we discuss several technical features of variants of the two-hybrid systems in light of data recently obtained from different protein interaction mapping projects for the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.