In the screening of complex mixtures, for example combinatorial libraries, natural extracts, and metabolic incubations, different approaches are used for integrated bioaffinity screening. Four major strategies can be used for screening of bioactive mixtures for protein targets-pre-column and post-column off-line, at-line, and on-line strategies. The focus of this review is on recent developments in post-column online screening, and the role of mass spectrometry (MS) in these systems. On-line screening systems integrate separation sciences, mass spectrometry, and biochemical methodology, enabling screening for active compounds in complex mixtures. There are three main variants of on-line MS based bioassays: the mass spectrometer is used for ligand identification only; the mass spectrometer is used for both ligand identification and bioassay readout; or MS detection is conducted in parallel with at-line microfractionation with off-line bioaffinity analysis. On the basis of the different fields of application of on-line screening, the principles are explained and their usefulness in the different fields of drug research is critically evaluated. Furthermore, off-line screening is discussed briefly with the on-line and at-line approaches. © The Author(s) 2010..