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Open Access Methodology

Increasing peptide identifications and decreasing search times for ETD spectra by pre-processing and calculation of parent precursor charge

Viswanadham Sridhara1, Dina L Bai2, An Chi3, Jeffrey Shabanowitz2, Donald F Hunt24, Stephen H Bryant1 and Lewis Y Geer1*

Author Affiliations

1 National Library of Medicine, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

2 Department of Chemistry, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

3 Merck Research Laboratories, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

4 Department of Pathology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

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Proteome Science 2012, 10:8  doi:10.1186/1477-5956-10-8

Published: 9 February 2012



Electron Transfer Dissociation [ETD] can dissociate multiply charged precursor polypeptides, providing extensive peptide backbone cleavage. ETD spectra contain charge reduced precursor peaks, usually of high intensity, and whose pattern is dependent on its parent precursor charge. These charge reduced precursor peaks and associated neutral loss peaks should be removed before these spectra are searched for peptide identifications. ETD spectra can also contain ion-types other than c and z˙. Modifying search strategies to accommodate these ion-types may aid in increased peptide identifications. Additionally, if the precursor mass is measured using a lower resolution instrument such as a linear ion trap, the charge of the precursor is often not known, reducing sensitivity and increasing search times. We implemented algorithms to remove these precursor peaks, accommodate new ion-types in noise filtering routine in OMSSA and to estimate any unknown precursor charge, using Linear Discriminant Analysis [LDA].


Spectral pre-processing to remove precursor peaks and their associated neutral losses prior to protein sequence library searches resulted in a 9.8% increase in peptide identifications at a 1% False Discovery Rate [FDR] compared to previous OMSSA filter. Modifications to the OMSSA noise filter to accommodate various ion-types resulted in a further 4.2% increase in peptide identifications at 1% FDR. Moreover, ETD spectra when searched with charge states obtained from the precursor charge determination algorithm is shown to be up to 3.5 times faster than the general range search method, with a minor 3.8% increase in sensitivity.


Overall, there is an 18.8% increase in peptide identifications at 1% FDR by incorporating the new precursor filter, noise filter and by using the charge determination algorithm, when compared to previous versions of OMSSA.