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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Apr 10;104(15):6140-5. Epub 2007 Apr 2.

Protein identification by spectral networks analysis.

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Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Advances in tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) steadily increase the rate of generation of MS/MS spectra. As a result, the existing approaches that compare spectra against databases are already facing a bottleneck, particularly when interpreting spectra of modified peptides. Here we explore a concept that allows one to perform an MS/MS database search without ever comparing a spectrum against a database. We propose to take advantage of spectral pairs, which are pairs of spectra obtained from overlapping (often nontryptic) peptides or from unmodified and modified versions of the same peptide. Having a spectrum of a modified peptide paired with a spectrum of an unmodified peptide allows one to separate the prefix and suffix ladders, to greatly reduce the number of noise peaks, and to generate a small number of peptide reconstructions that are likely to contain the correct one. The MS/MS database search is thus reduced to extremely fast pattern-matching (rather than time-consuming matching of spectra against databases). In addition to speed, our approach provides a unique paradigm for identifying posttranslational modifications by means of spectral networks analysis.

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