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Nat Biotechnol. 2005 Dec;23(12):1562-7. Epub 2005 Nov 27.

Identification of post-translational modifications by blind search of mass spectra.

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Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093-0404, USA.


Most tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) database search algorithms perform a restrictive search that takes into account only a few types of post-translational modifications (PTMs) and ignores all others. We describe an unrestrictive PTM search algorithm, MS-Alignment, that searches for all types of PTMs at once in a blind mode, that is, without knowing which PTMs exist in nature. Blind PTM identification makes it possible to study the extent and frequency of different types of PTMs, still an open problem in proteomics. Application of this approach to lens proteins resulted in the largest set of PTMs reported in human crystallins so far. Our analysis of various MS/MS data sets implies that the biological phenomenon of modification is much more widespread than previously thought. We also argue that MS-Alignment reveals some uncharacterized modifications that warrant further experimental validation.

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