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J Proteome Res. 2015 Oct 2;14(10):4147-57. doi: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.5b00200. Epub 2015 Sep 1.

Experimental Null Method to Guide the Development of Technical Procedures and to Control False-Positive Discovery in Quantitative Proteomics.

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Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute , Elm and Carlton Streets, Buffalo, New York 14263, United States.


Comprehensive and accurate evaluation of data quality and false-positive biomarker discovery is critical to direct the method development/optimization for quantitative proteomics, which nonetheless remains challenging largely due to the high complexity and unique features of proteomic data. Here we describe an experimental null (EN) method to address this need. Because the method experimentally measures the null distribution (either technical or biological replicates) using the same proteomic samples, the same procedures and the same batch as the case-vs-contol experiment, it correctly reflects the collective effects of technical variability (e.g., variation/bias in sample preparation, LC-MS analysis, and data processing) and project-specific features (e.g., characteristics of the proteome and biological variation) on the performances of quantitative analysis. To show a proof of concept, we employed the EN method to assess the quantitative accuracy and precision and the ability to quantify subtle ratio changes between groups using different experimental and data-processing approaches and in various cellular and tissue proteomes. It was found that choices of quantitative features, sample size, experimental design, data-processing strategies, and quality of chromatographic separation can profoundly affect quantitative precision and accuracy of label-free quantification. The EN method was also demonstrated as a practical tool to determine the optimal experimental parameters and rational ratio cutoff for reliable protein quantification in specific proteomic experiments, for example, to identify the necessary number of technical/biological replicates per group that affords sufficient power for discovery. Furthermore, we assessed the ability of EN method to estimate levels of false-positives in the discovery of altered proteins, using two concocted sample sets mimicking proteomic profiling using technical and biological replicates, respectively, where the true-positives/negatives are known and span a wide concentration range. It was observed that the EN method correctly reflects the null distribution in a proteomic system and accurately measures false altered proteins discovery rate (FADR). In summary, the EN method provides a straightforward, practical, and accurate alternative to statistics-based approaches for the development and evaluation of proteomic experiments and can be universally adapted to various types of quantitative techniques.


experimental null (EN); false altered proteins discovery rate (FADR); ion-current-based quantification; quantitative proteomics

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