A model of random mass-matching and its use for automated significance testing in mass spectrometric proteome analysis

Proteomics. 2002 Mar;2(3):262-70. doi: 10.1002/1615-9861(200203)2:3<262::aid-prot262>3.0.co;2-w.


A rapid and accurate method for testing the significance of protein identities determined by mass spectrometric analysis of protein digests and genome database searching is presented. The method is based on direct computation using a statistical model of the random matching of measured and theoretical proteolytic peptide masses. Protein identification algorithms typically rank the proteins of a genome database according to a score based on the number of matches between the masses obtained by mass spectrometry analysis and the theoretical proteolytic peptide masses of a database protein. The random matching of experimental and theoretical masses can cause false results. A result is significant only if the score characterizing the result deviates significantly from the score expected from a false result. A distribution of the score (number of matches) for random (false) results is computed directly from our model of the random matching, which allows significance testing under any experimental and database search constraints. In order to mimic protein identification data quality in large-scale proteome projects, low-to-high quality proteolytic peptide mass data were generated in silico and subsequently submitted to a database search program designed to include significance testing based on direct computation. This simulation procedure demonstrates the usefulness of direct significance testing for automatically screening for samples that must be subjected to peptide sequence analysis by e.g. tandem mass spectrometry in order to determine the protein identity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Databases, Factual
  • Genome
  • Haemophilus influenzae / genetics
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Molecular Weight
  • Peptides / analysis
  • Proteome / analysis*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics


  • Peptides
  • Proteome