Mass spectrometry (MS) is a widely used proteome analysis tool for biomedical science. In an MS-based bottom-up proteomic approach to protein identification, sequence database (DB) searching has been routinely used because of its simplicity and convenience. However, searching a sequence DB with multiple variable modification options can increase processing time, false-positive errors in large and complicated MS data sets. Spectral library searching is an alternative solution, avoiding the limitations of sequence DB searching and allowing the detection of more peptides with high sensitivity. Unfortunately, this technique has less proteome coverage, resulting in limitations in the detection of novel and whole peptide sequences in biological samples. To solve these problems, we previously developed the "Combo-Spec Search" method, which uses manually multiple references and simulated spectral library searching to analyze whole proteomes in a biological sample. In this study, we have developed a new analytical interface tool called "Epsilon-Q" to enhance the functions of both the Combo-Spec Search method and label-free protein quantification. Epsilon-Q performs automatically multiple spectral library searching, class-specific false-discovery rate control, and result integration. It has a user-friendly graphical interface and demonstrates good performance in identifying and quantifying proteins by supporting standard MS data formats and spectrum-to-spectrum matching powered by SpectraST. Furthermore, when the Epsilon-Q interface is combined with the Combo-Spec search method, called the Epsilon-Q system, it shows a synergistic function by outperforming other sequence DB search engines for identifying and quantifying low-abundance proteins in biological samples. The Epsilon-Q system can be a versatile tool for comparative proteome analysis based on multiple spectral libraries and label-free quantification.
Keywords: label-free quantification; mass spectrometry; proteomics; sequence database search; spectral library.