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Proteomics. 2010 Feb;10(4):671-86. doi: 10.1002/pmic.200900502.

Unrestricted identification of modified proteins using MS/MS.

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Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Proteome Informatics Group, Geneva, Switzerland.


Proteins undergo PTM, which modulates their structure and regulates their function. Estimates of the PTM occurrence vary but it is safe to assume that there is an important gap between what is currently known and what remains to be discovered. The highest throughput and most comprehensive efforts to catalogue protein mixtures have so far been using MS-based shotgun proteomics. The standard approach to analyse MS/MS data is to use Peptide Fragment Fingerprinting tools such as Sequest, MASCOT or Phenyx. These tools commonly identify 5-30% of the spectra in an MS/MS data set while only a limited list of predefined protein modifications can be screened. An important part of the unidentified spectra is likely to be spectra of peptides carrying modifications not considered in the search. Bioinformatics for PTM discovery is an active area of research. In this review we focus on software solutions developed for unrestricted identification of modifications in MS/MS data, here referred to as open modification search tools. We give an overview of the conceptually different algorithmic solutions to evaluate the large number of candidate peptides per spectrum when accounting for modifications of unrestricted size and demonstrate the value of results of large-scale open modification search studies. Efficient and easy-to-use tools for protein modification discovery should prove valuable in the quest for mapping the dynamics of proteomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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