Combination of Multiple Spectral Libraries Improves the Current Search Methods Used to Identify Missing Proteins in the Chromosome-Centric Human Proteome Project

J Proteome Res. 2015 Dec 4;14(12):4959-66. doi: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.5b00578. Epub 2015 Sep 14.


Approximately 2.9 billion long base-pair human reference genome sequences are known to encode some 20 000 representative proteins. However, 3000 proteins, that is, ~15% of all proteins, have no or very weak proteomic evidence and are still missing. Missing proteins may be present in rare samples in very low abundance or be only temporarily expressed, causing problems in their detection and protein profiling. In particular, some technical limitations cause missing proteins to remain unassigned. For example, current mass spectrometry techniques have high limits and error rates for the detection of complex biological samples. An insufficient proteome coverage in a reference sequence database and spectral library also raises major issues. Thus, the development of a better strategy that results in greater sensitivity and accuracy in the search for missing proteins is necessary. To this end, we used a new strategy, which combines a reference spectral library search and a simulated spectral library search, to identify missing proteins. We built the human iRefSPL, which contains the original human reference spectral library and additional peptide sequence-spectrum match entries from other species. We also constructed the human simSPL, which contains the simulated spectra of 173 907 human tryptic peptides determined by MassAnalyzer (version 2.3.1). To prove the enhanced analytical performance of the combination of the human iRefSPL and simSPL methods for the identification of missing proteins, we attempted to reanalyze the placental tissue data set (PXD000754). The data from each experiment were analyzed using PeptideProphet, and the results were combined using iProphet. For the quality control, we applied the class-specific false-discovery rate filtering method. All of the results were filtered at a false-discovery rate of <1% at the peptide and protein levels. The quality-controlled results were then cross-checked with the neXtProt DB (2014-09-19 release). The two spectral libraries, iRefSPL and simSPL, were designed to ensure no overlap of the proteome coverage. They were shown to be complementary to spectral library searching and significantly increased the number of matches. From this trial, 12 new missing proteins were identified that passed the following criterion: at least 2 peptides of 7 or more amino acids in length or one of 9 or more amino acids in length with one or more unique sequences. Thus, the iRefSPL and simSPL combination can be used to help identify peptides that have not been detected by conventional sequence database searches with improved sensitivity and a low error rate.

Keywords: Chromosome-Centric Human Proteome Project; missing protein; proteomics; spectral library search.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Chromosomes, Human*
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Databases, Protein*
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / analysis
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteome*
  • Proteomics / methods*


  • Peptides
  • Proteins
  • Proteome