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Anal Chem. 2005 Jul 1;77(13):3931-46.

Discovering known and unanticipated protein modifications using MS/MS database searching.

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Applied Biosystems, 850 Lincoln Centre Drive, Foster City, California 94404, USA. tangwh@


We present an MS/MS database search algorithm with the following novel features: (1) a novel protein database structure containing extensive preindexing and (2) zone modification searching, which enables the rapid discovery of protein modifications of known (i.e., user-specified) and unanticipated delta masses. All of these features are implemented in Interrogator, the search engine that runs behind the Pro ID, Pro ICAT, and Pro QUANT software products. Speed benchmarks demonstrate that our modification-tolerant database search algorithm is 100-fold faster than traditional database search algorithms when used for comprehensive searches for a broad variety of modification species. The ability to rapidly search for a large variety of known as well as unanticipated modifications allows a significantly greater percentage of MS/MS scans to be identified. We demonstrate this with an example in which, out of a total of 473 identified MS/MS scans, 315 of these scans correspond to unmodified peptides, while 158 scans correspond to a wide variety of modified peptides. In addition, we provide specific examples where the ability to search for unanticipated modifications allows the scientist to discover: unexpected modifications that have biological significance; amino acid mutations; salt-adducted peptides in a sample that has nominally been desalted; peptides arising from nontryptic cleavage in a sample that has nominally been digested using trypsin; other unintended consequences of sample handling procedures.

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