Two-dimensional target decoy strategy for shotgun proteomics

J Proteome Res. 2011 Dec 2;10(12):5296-301. doi: 10.1021/pr200780j. Epub 2011 Nov 7.


The target-decoy approach to estimating and controlling false discovery rate (FDR) has become a de facto standard in shotgun proteomics, and it has been applied at both the peptide-to-spectrum match (PSM) and protein levels. Current bioinformatics methods control either the PSM- or the protein-level FDR, but not both. In order to obtain the most reliable information from their data, users must employ one method when the number of tandem mass spectra exceeds the number of proteins in the database and another method when the reverse is true. Here we propose a simple variation of the standard target-decoy strategy that estimates and controls PSM and protein FDRs simultaneously, regardless of the relative numbers of spectra and proteins. We demonstrate that even if the final goal is a list of PSMs with a fixed low FDR and not a list of protein identifications, the proposed two-dimensional strategy offers advantages over a pure PSM-level strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Databases, Protein
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / analysis
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Search Engine
  • Software*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Peptides