DNA-binding proteins mediate a variety of crucial molecular functions, such as transcriptional regulation and chromosome maintenance, replication and repair, which in turn control cell division and differentiation. The roles of these proteins in disease are currently being investigated using microarray-based approaches. However, these assays can be difficult to adapt to routine diagnosis of complex diseases such as cancer. Here, we review promising alternative approaches involving protein-binding microarrays (PBMs) that probe the interaction of proteins from crude cell or tissue extracts with large collections of synthetic or natural DNA sequences. Recent studies have demonstrated the use of these novel PBM approaches to provide rapid and unbiased characterization of DNA-binding proteins as molecular markers of disease, for example cancer progression or infectious diseases.