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J Proteomics Bioinform. 2010 Feb 5;3:39-47.

Evaluation of the Consensus of Four Peptide Identification Algorithms for Tandem Mass Spectrometry Based Proteomics.

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Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh, PA.


The availability of different scoring schemes and filter settings of protein database search algorithms has greatly expanded the number of search methods for identifying candidate peptides from MS/MS spectra. We have previously shown that consensus-based methods that combine three search algorithms yield higher sensitivity and specificity compared to the use of a single search engine (individual method). We hypothesized that union of four search engines (Sequest, Mascot, X!Tandem and Phenyx) can further enhance sensitivity and specificity. ROC plots were generated to measure the sensitivity and specificity of 5460 consensus methods derived from the same dataset. We found that Mascot outperformed individual methods for sensitivity and specificity, while Phenyx performed the worst. The union consensus methods generally produced much higher sensitivity, while the intersection consensus methods gave much higher specificity. The union methods from four search algorithms modestly improved sensitivity, but not specificity, compared to union methods that used three search engines. This suggests that a strategy based on specific combination of search algorithms, instead of merely 'as many search engines as possible', may be key strategy for success with peptide identification. Lastly, we provide strategies for optimizing sensitivity or specificity of peptide identification in MS/MS spectra for different user-specific conditions.

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